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County hospital district board approves mill levy question for voters

by Eric Mullens
HUERFANO COUNTY —  The Huerfano County Hospital District Board of Directors met in a special session Tuesday and approved a resolution to put a ballot issue before voters for the upcoming May 2018 election.
The resolution was passed on a 3-0 vote, with one director, Karen Wilson absent, and term-limited director Al Tucker abstaining from the vote.  Tucker is serving as the Designated Election Official for the May mail-in county hospital district election.
Three board member positions, currently held by Tucker, Dr. Paul Coe and Ron Nielsen, are up for election this year.  Eligible, registered voters in Huerfano County will receive ballots in the mail.
The resolution passed this week will ask voters to approve or disapprove a 3.5 mill levy increase necessitated by series of cuts in recent years to provider fees.  Those fees are designed to help hospitals provide care for patients unable to pay for their care and those paying with Medicaid.  Those state provider fee cuts in recent years has reduced funding to hospitals by approximately 50%.
In addition, board members and hospital administration include the additional $326,000 annual cost increase the district has incurred by taking control and responsibility of the ambulance service based in Walsenburg, formerly under the control and financing of Huerfano County.  The La Veta ambulance service is paid for by the La Veta Fire Protection District’s mill levy.  A segment of the resolution says, “Unless additional funding is obtained, the Board will be forced to consider significant cuts to the programs and services provided at Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center.” Those potential cuts may include; first responders; advanced life support ambulance service and several out-patient services.
“After careful consideration, the board has determined that asking the voters for a 3.5 mill levy increase is the only viable option to help meet the funding needs for the district,” the resolution says.
If passed, the mill levy increase would mean an increase tax of approximately $25.20 for a residence valued at $100,000.
Next week the World Journal will list the names of the individual candidates who are seeking seats on the hospital district’s board of directors.

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