Parcel Tax Appears Likely!
Editorial by Terrence Vaughn
Note: MCDH parcel tax and survey links do work, it must be my laptop and I was in a hurry to get it up, SORRY!
The MCDH Planning Committee met Tuesday to determine whether they could pass a parcel tax at this upcoming election in June. In a manner strangely reminiscent of watching the Republican Congress pass the latest tax package, the Planning Committee was delivered a 32 page handout of the latest survey and a slide show presentation of the data delivered, while then being asked to vote yes or no, with very little time to read or analyze the documents presented. With only one member of the committee abstaining, Carole White, the committee voted to approve the wording of the tax proposal and forward it to the Board of Directors.
Having a little more time to scrutinize the wording I find several ambiguous statements that could be further discussed.
“To provide funding for maintaining emergency room services, attracting and retaining, high quality doctors and nurses, maintaining 911 services and providing essential healthcare to residents of Mendocino County.”
· Maintain local emergency room services. Good!
· Attract and retain high quality doctors and nurses. (How? This sounds like a mission statement!)
· Maintain local 911 services (see below)
· Continue essential healthcare at our local hospital. Duh, what does that mean? ( The final motion did remove this item)
· Make critical repairs and upgrades to medical equipment and facilities. Good!
· Maintain local surgical services, (Why, when a state of the art facility exists in Willits. let’s build a new facility to code in 2030)
· Maintain local obstetric services. (If this measure doesn’t pass will OB again become threatened?) (What about Women’s Healthcare and access to abortions?)
911 vs Emergency Services / Ambulance District
In my past employment I worked for the communication giant AT&T in the “Special Services Department”. I was responsible for most everything riding telephone lines except voice lines. This included data lines and 911 facilities. I built the only 911 dispatch center to ever exist on the Mendocino Coast. This system was migrated to the Ukiah Sheriffs Office and The Howard Forest Cal-Fire Station in between Willits and Redwood Valley in the 1980’s. All cellular 911 traffic is dispatched by The California Highway Patrol.
When I see someone touting “911” as a reason to fund them I get skeptical. “911” is funded by a surcharge on telecommunications! The Mendocino Coast Healthcare District is an end responder to dispatches from a separately funded system, The 911 Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge Tax which reimburses all costs for the 911 system! The 911 radio dispatch system is served and paid for by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department
Or are they saying the Mendocino Coast Ambulance Support, as 911 first responders, would receive funding by this parcel tax? If so, they should say it, but that organization, while owned by the hospital, has it’s own unique non-profit structure and budget.
There are many first responders inside this hospital district including volunteer fire districts that extend to the Sonoma County border. Will they get a share of this parcel tax under 911 services?
Shamelessly using the term, ”fund 911 Services” is an inflammatory and meaningless scare tactic that brooks no argument, unless you understand how 911 works. 911 Services are independently funded by other agencies.
Financial ambiguity and contracts
While several key personnel are missing from the management staff, including a permanent CFO, a licensed and qualified stationary engineer and a personnel manager, we are being asked to trust this hospital management with a parcel tax for things as amorphous as “Continue essential healthcare at our local hospital.”
Any bank loan manager would at least ask to see the books before entering into such a long term financial transaction. As a property tax payer in this district, I want to see the books. 1.7 million dollars sounds like a lot of money but is approximately 3% of the annual budget.
As with the new tax plan passed by Congress, there has been no analysis of the effect it will have on the finances of the Hospital. Charitable giving is sure to go down as there will be no itemized deductions available to deduct from one’s taxes. Will we need more than what’s available from the parcel tax?
- How many fines and lawsuits has this administration undergone in recent times that would completely eat up all of the benefits gained from this tax?
- Establishing another layer of bureaucracy to ensure financial transparency is insane. The hospital Board of Directors main function is oversight of the finances, why add another layer just to assuage the community’s fear that MCDH isn’t trustworthy enough to handle the funds responsibly.
- Why not give us total transparency into the private contracts of the providers and doctors associated with the hospital?
- The final 2016/17 final audit differed from the CFO’s year end financial statement by almost the same amount that the tax would raise yearly.
At Mendocino TV we believe a parcel tax will become necessary to support healthcare services on the Mendocino Coast. We also believe that the citizens of this community have the right to total transparency in their finances. We also believe the hospital, a publicly owned district hospital, should make it a policy to be transparent about the entities that holds financial contracts with them.