Voters KO hospital tax

Voters send ‘loud and clear’ message, hospital CEO says

Michelle Stuckey
May 05, 2011 at 2:29 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Seventy percent of voters rejected two St. Charles Parish Hospital propositions in the April 30 election that would have raised taxes to provide for operational costs and capital improvements.

The hospital asked voters to approve a higher amount of property tax and to authorize the issuance of $3 million in bonds for capital improvements. The tax rate for the hospital would have risen from 2.48 to 2.97 mills.
About 2,600 voters turned out to cast their vote on the propositions.

Fred Martinez, CEO of the hospital, said that hospital staff is regrouping after the propositions were denied.

“We appreciate all of the people that voted for the hospital (propositions) and for those that didn’t vote for them - we heard the message loud and clear that the voters of the parish don’t want to see additional taxation,” Martinez said. “We’re going to regroup and look at that and consider what the message means to us.”

Martinez said that the hospital is experiencing a “serious cash problem” and that the tax renewal was very important.

“The renewal was important because… the banks wanted to see the renewal in place before they approved our line of credit for this year,” Martinez said. “Without the renewal, it’s hard for us to get the line of credit in place.”

While the failure to renew the tax and bonds issues is a set back for the hospital, Martinez does not plan on reducing the services provided there.

“We probably won’t cut down on services provided, but we do have to cut our costs back,” he said.

Because the bonds didn’t pass, the hospital must hold off on buying new equipment, such as ambulances and surgical tables, until additional funds can be found, Martinez said.

“Although the election failed, we’re not going to stop our efforts in trying to improve healthcare for the parish,” Martinez said. “We’ll just have to figure out how to do it without additional taxation.”

Voters did approve two other propositions on Saturday’s ballot.

Disabled veterans will now be able to double their homestead  exemptions. Parish President V.J. St. Pierre proposed the measure that will allow the 66 parish veterans that meet the criteria to double their exemptions to $150,000.

Saturday voters also passed a renewal of taxation for mosquito control. The tax rate will remain at 1.10 mills and is used for the continued study, abatement, control and eradication of mosquitoes.

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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