Hospital vote— opinion and facts
If you’ve read any of my past editorials on the hospital, you know I have fervently and unabashedly voiced my support for a new hospital facility. Now it’s up to the people of Chase County to decide.
This issue has generated lots of debate and emotion, both on the pages of this newspaper and on social media. Some for. Some against.
There’s no question the owners of ag land bear a disproportionate share of the cost. Unfortunately, that’s the way Nebraska’s tax system is set up. Hopefully, the Legislature comes up with a workable property tax relief plan this year to take some of the load off our farmers.
I have visited with some farmers who say we need this hospital, knowing darn well it’s going to cost them. They see it as an investment in the future as well as ensuring that their kids and grandkids have a hospital they can count on.
Here’s some factual background that may be helpful in the discussion.
Electing the hospital board: A 2009 successful petition drive put the formation of a hospital district (required so board members could be elected) on the 2010 ballot. It passed 629-566. The district was formed and members appointed. It was going to cost $200,000-$400,000 to transfer the hospital from the county to the hospital district as required. As a result, another petition drive in 2012 put dissolution of the district on the ballot. That passed 727-175.
County tax support: There seems to be some misconception the hospital has been receiving county tax dollars for years. In reality, until this year, the hospital received no county tax support for operations. This year, the hospital requested $250,000 in tax support from the county, which was approved by the commissioners.
New facility versus remodeling existing facility: In 2016, the hospital hired The ERDMAN Company of Westminster, Colorado to complete a master plan study for the hospital. The estimated cost for expansion and remodeling was estimated by ERDMAN at $24.4 million versus $22 million for a new facility. That’s when the board began pursuing a new facility. This report also noted a greater utilization of the hospital by county residents from 2013 to 2016.
Financing alternatives: The hospital board and the commissioners felt strongly that people needed to vote on the bond issue. The board looked at a USDA loan but commissioners felt more comfortable with a bond. As for grants, it’s highly unlikely there’s a grant that would pay for the hospital. The hospital foundation has received some grants for hospital equipment.
Take time to seek out the facts, as you play a key role in shaping the future of Chase County with your vote.