From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 106, Number 14 - April 2, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Commissioners react to health district

by Jonathan Van Dyke

If the Rural County Health Care District (RCHD) is in need of county help, the Sublette County Commission will wait for more financial information before making any decisions.

RCHD could come to the Sublette County Commission for funding help, especially if an initiative cannot be passed to raise its mill levy by two, with the district estimated to be losing $3 million this fiscal year.

“My response was that in that event, they could come to us with a proposal and we could talk about it,” Chairman William Cramer said. “I have not seen the books of the Health Care District and would only consider such a proposal after doing so.

“And then there would not be any guarantee that I would either be in a position to help them, or would want to help them based on our current situation in regard to our funding the construction of the two clinics.”

The RCHD met last night — after the Roundup deadline. Discussion was expected to center on the budget and potential department cutbacks — district CFO Lorraine Gatzke said she wanted department heads to look for ways to cut each budget 10-20 percent during the last RCHD meeting.

While investments and reserves could help offset the on-average $300,000 lost a month for the next two years, if cuts aren’t made it could be hard to sustain the district after that.

This could also make it difficult for the RCHD to pay anything back to the county, after the commissioners decided to help fund the $18 million it cost for both new medical clinics.

“The commissioners always said we’d be the bank for the project,” County Clerk Mary Lankford said.

Commissioner Joel Bousman was also curious to see any future proposal from the RCHD, and was unsure how any commission action would proceed as far as repayment for the clinics.

“It was my understanding, based on conversations with the health care district and the county, that at that time they (RCHD) indicated that they (RCHD) had plenty of money and they would have the ability to pay back that loan that the county made to them so they could build both clinics,” he said.

A possible remedy for all this trouble could be in a countywide vote that would raise RCHD’s mill levy to four. Right now, two mills gave the RCHD $7-plus for the fiscal year.

A mil is .0001 of a dollar assessed on property taxes. For example, raising the mil levy to four would increase one’s property taxes by $19 on $100,000 of assessed value.

“This financial discussion has to be out in the open, since they’re likely asking the public for two more mills,” Bousman said.

RCHD treasurer Dave Racich also indicated a desire for the district to cut costs to show the county that is could be fiscally responsible before a vote came.

Before the RCHD was formed, the county had a hospital board that operated out of the commissioners’ budget.

“They functioned like the library board or the museum board and were part of the 12 mills [the county receives],” Lankford said.

The district was formed in 1987 in order to achieve more funding for health care, she added.

If the situation did get dire in the future, it is unclear what would happen to the district. State statute says that the commissioners can determine “if it is in the best interest of the county” to dissolve and liquidate such an entity, but that language is vague.

“I can’t really give a definitive answer [to how or whether the commission will get involved] until the commission reviews, in detail, what their fiscal situation is,” Bousman said.

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