South Routt Medical will ask Routt County for loan to cover Peabody loss
Oak Creek — The South Routt Medical Health Service District will ask Routt County commissioners Tuesday to loan the district $55,000 the group planned to receive in tax payments from Peabody Energy.
The district board met Tuesday and heard from Commissioner Tim Corrigan, who said he thought a request from the district for a $55,000 loan would be received favorably by the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
“You guys are providing an absolutely critical service to the people of South Routt County,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan said he knew that in addition to the South Routt School District, the health district operated on a tight budget, and he had worried how the medical center would handle a $55,000 loss.
Corrigan said some of the other entities affected by the lost property taxes, including Routt County, the library district and West Routt Fire Protection District, had indicated they could “weather the storm” and wait for the taxes to come in.
The district board agreed to let President Chuck Wisecup sign a letter asking Routt County commissioners for a $55,000 loan, with a possible interest rate to be negotiated.
Despite what could be a quick-fix resolution to the lost property taxes, the health district is still facing financial trouble.
South Routt Medical Center is operating on a projected $786,000 budget for 2016, which includes a $163,000 spend down of reserves. Budget records show the center has been operating in the red since 2014, with a fund balance that year of nearly $850,000, down to a projected $550,000 by the end of this year.
Wisecup said the board already had been discussing the need to raise the district’s mill levy to generate more revenue for the medical center.
“We barely had enough in our cash balance last month to make payroll,” Wisecup said.
Board members Tuesday questioned whether the dental program was the cause of the center’s unbalanced budget.
The program lost a part-time dentist earlier in the year, and center leaders have struggled to find a replacement, though two retired dentists had inquired about the position in just this past week.
Currently, the program has one part-time dental hygienist.
The program has struggled to generate income because of the high percentage of Medicaid customers from across the county who are traveling to South Routt for dental care because of a lack of providers elsewhere. About 92 percent of the center’s dental patients are on Medicaid and more than 60 percent are from outside South Routt, according to center director Ken Rogers.
Rogers said the reimbursement rate for Medicaid patients is not good, meaning the patients generate less revenue for dental centers than private insurance patients.
The board agreed Tuesday to reinstate an advisory committee to study the center’s financial stability, options for balancing the budget in the future and whether to proceed with a mill levy increase in November.
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