GRMC board holds second public hearing
The Graham Regional Medical Center board held their second public hearing on Tuesday at the American Legion Building about a proposed 7.99 percent tax rate increase.The proposed tax rate increase would raise the tax from $0.388478 to $0.431590 per $100 valuation, which would add $43.11 of taxes to property valued at $100,000.
Board members in attendance were Wyatt Pettus, Dr. Donald Behr, Michael Carmichael and Jon Garvey. Terry Bishop, Barrie Strickland and Suzy Graham were not attendance due to scheduling conflicts. Non board members who spoke were GRMC Chief Executive Officer Shane Kernell, on contract from Endeavor, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Casbeer and Endeavor CEO Karl Hittle.
The hearing was held in a question and answer format with the board answering questions on a range of topics.
One of the topics brought up during the meeting was how Endeavor Healthcare had purchased previous hospitals in Oklahoma which they were brought into manage in the past. Hittle said they were brought into manage those hospitals and part of the deal was if they turned them profitable they would have option to purchase.
“We do not have that deal here, we have no intent of buying GRMC, nor do I believe the board have any intent in selling it,” Hittle said. “Our intent is to save this hospital, I have had a lot of sleepless nights with Shane, a lot of the initiatives you see or talk about are brought about by our company. So I am working my backside off to save this company because that is what we do.”
Another thing brought up in the meeting was how the 7.99 percent increase is just below the 8 percent rollback rate which would have allowed the increase to go to a public vote. Many asked for the board to raise it to an 8 percent increase, however the board said it was too late for them to do so.
According to the Texas Comptrollers Office, a new tax rate must be published and two more public hearing must be held. The first public meeting can not occur until at least a week after a published notice and the second must be at least three days after that. The board must then wait at least three more days to vote on the tax increase and a tax rate must be voted on by Sept. 29.
Pettus said he wished they had proposed the 8 percent increase so the public could vote and he had not yet decided on the increase. Dr. Behr and Garvey said they only voted on proposing the 7.99 percent increase in order to have the hearings to hear from the public and they planned on voting no on the increase. Four votes are needed to approve a tax increase.
Kernell said during the previous hearing that the hospital this year is projected to have a $5.2 million operating loss before the hole is filled by tax revenue and subsidies from the federal government and has cut off $6 million from their operating expenses since 2015.
The hospital has 151 full-time and 54 part-time employees and distributes $9.1 million in salary and benefits and purchase over a $1 million a year in local supplies. Kernell said they provide services to 6,600 people a year in the emergency department and 34,000 in labs and x-ray departments. The hospital has $4.3 million a year in bad debt which is indigent care and charity.
Casbeer said expenses of the hospital will rise about $212,000 from the prior year due to salary adjustments and benefits to be able retain keep key staff because employees currently have no benefits other then full coverage at the hospital. Casbeer said the hospital projects an operating loss of $3,955,000 for next year which is just above $1.2 million growth from this year. After other revenue comes in including tax income the hospital would project to have a positive bottom line of $42,000.
The hospital board can vote to approve the proposed 7.99 percent tax increase, vote to increase the tax rate by a lesser amount or not increase the tax rate at all. The board will vote on the tax rate and budget in a board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18 in the GRMC Education Conference Room at noon.
For more from the GRMC public hearing on the tax rate read the Saturday Sept. 15 edition of The Graham Leader.