Our view: Health care facility deserves support | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Health care facility deserves support

At issue:

Referendum 5A seeks to increase the property tax rate in the South Routt Medical Center taxing district by 2 mills, from 2.095 to 4.095 mills.

Our view:

The approximate $185,000 in extra revenue that would be generated by the increase would help fund the medical center’s crucial work, and we hope South Routt voters will approve it.

When faced with the prospect of a tax increase, four basic questions come to mind.

• Is the extra revenue needed?

• Will the funds generated by the tax increase benefit the people who’ll be paying for it?

• Is the proposed increase affordable in terms of the individual taxpayer?

• Do the potential benefits of enacting the increase outweigh the added expense?

Our view:

The approximate $185,000 in extra revenue that would be generated by the increase would help fund the medical center’s crucial work, and we hope South Routt voters will approve it.

In the case of Referendum 5A, which seeks to increase the property tax in South Routt County to help support the South Routt Medical Center, the answer to all four questions is a resounding “yes,” and we encourage South Routt voters to approve the measure.

First, there is little doubt the extra revenue is needed.

Due to the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, the center — which accepts an unlimited number of Medicare and Medicaid patients, many of them from outside its taxing district — is serving more people, who, in turn, are providing less in the way of revenue. Additionally, debt service on a 2014 renovation of the facility costs the center about $42,000 annually.

At current revenue levels, all this adds up to an unsustainable financial situation, according to SRMC District Manager Ken Rogers.

In fact, Rogers recently said that, without the increase, the medical center will find itself operating in the red by the end of 2017 and, in that event, would likely have to consider reductions in services, staffing levels and/or operating hours.

This potential for cutbacks leads to the second question: Would the funds generated benefit the people paying the tax? Again, the answer is “yes.”

South Routt Medical Center serves as the primary health care hub for South Routt residents, many of whom are elderly and do not have easy access to healthcare in Steamboat Springs or other nearby cities, particularly during the winter months. For that reason, it is a crucial cog in the day-to-day wellbeing of the residents who would be absorbing the tax increase, and in our view, allowing a reduction in those services would represent a serious detriment to those taxpayers.

Thirdly, the proposed increase of two mills translates to an additional $18 annually per $100,000 of assessed residential property value, which amounts to about a nickel per day. The median value of a home in Routt County — factoring in the higher-valued homes in Steamboat — is about $400,000, meaning the average tax increase would amount to about $72 per year.

And finally, is guaranteeing the future solvency of South Routt Medical Center, a facility of inestimable value to South Routt residents, worth an average of $72 per year? South Routt voters will have to answer that question for themselves, but in our opinion, it’s worth it.

For these reasons, we encourage South Routt voters to support their local health care facility and vote “yes” on Referendum 5A.

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