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Hospital Authority pitches millage rate increase

POSTED: November 25, 2011 9:41 a.m.

The Liberty County Hospital Authority held two public hearings Tuesday to discuss its proposed millage rate increase from 3.1 mills to 3.25 mills.

“It’s always been our goal not to adopt the maximum amount of millage that the hospital qualifies for,” Chairman John Long said, explaining that the law allows hospital authorities to adopt millage rates up to 7 mills. The board voted in its October meeting to increase the rate 1.85 percent to 3.25 mills.

Liberty Regional Medical Center, Coastal Manor Long Term Care and the county ambulance service all are funded with money generated from property taxes, Long said.

During the noon hearing, Liberty Regional Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Sam Johnson offered an overview of the factors that precede the increase.

“The millage that the hospital receives from the county, the primary purpose of that is to actually pay the bond debt for the hospital, and that expense is about $1.8 million this year,” Johnson said.

A portion of the money also will offset some of the hospital’s indigent and charity care, which has increased greatly in recent years, he said. In 2007, the hospital’s indigent-care cost was $1.2 million; in 2010, it was $3.5; and in the current fiscal year, the hospital has given $4.2 million to date in indigent care. 

“When you add in our bond debt with the indigent care, that represents about $6.5 million,” Johnson said. “So it’s a big expense on the hospital to cover those two items.”

At the rate of 3.25, the authority only would realize about $3.8 million, leaving a deficit of about $3 million.

“This millage increase would really just keep us on sound financial footing, and it would allow us to proceed with our planned expansion,” Johnson said. “Our ER is about half the size it needs to be. Our land is about half the size it needs to be. We need to increase our radiologist space. Our OB-GYN, that service has gone up exponentially. The amount of deliveries that we do has pretty much doubled.”

The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $125,000 is an estimated $7, and the increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $150,000 is an estimated $9, according to a notice provided by the authority.

Four authority board members were present for the noon hearing: Dr. Bobby Herrington, Will Darsey, James Rogers and Chairman John Long along with LRMC CEO Scott Kroell. 

The hospital authority will hold another public hearing in the county courthouse annex at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

During the hearing, the Liberty County Board of Commissioners, along with representatives from the taxing entities within the county, will hear comments on all rates, and the commission is slated to vote on each rate at 6 p.m. 

This year, the proposed county rate for properties within Hinesville is 11.3 mills, down from 11.4 in 2010. The rate for properties in other municipalities and unincorporated areas of the county remains unchanged at 11.98, according to a notice the county released last week.

The Liberty County Development Authority anticipates maintaining its rate of 2 mills, which it has held since 2006.

The Liberty County Board of Education, which will adopt its 2011 rate immediately following a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday,  also proposed maintaining its rate of 15.5 mills.

As the Courier previously reported, the city of Hinesville voted to maintain its rate of 9.5 mills during a Nov. 17 meeting. City Manager Billy Edwards said the millage rate has been set at 9.5 since 2007 but that the city still would anticipate an increase in revenue due to population growth. 

The hospital authority also will hold a called meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to appoint two members to its board. County coroner Reggie Pierce has been nominated to replace Verdell Jones, who resigned from the position, and Chairman John Long is up for re-appointment.

 

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