Public Hearing Slated for Aug. 21

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – In a story akin to the Infamous “Man Bites Dog” tale, the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) has been presented with a petition to explore the possibility of authorizing a significant tax hike.

According to information provided by HCHD Board President Deborah Porth Blackwell, the board received a petition on Aug.10, signed by over 100 registered voters in the HCHD.

The petition  requested “… an election under Texas Health Safety Code 285.231 to authorize the increase of the maximum tax rate of Houston County Hospital District from $0.15 to up to the maximum statutory rate of $0.75.”

Because of the nature of the petition and the current 15 cent cap on the tax rate, the HCHD has scheduled a public hearing on the request on Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m., in the cafeteria of the   Houston County Medical Center.

“If, after the hearing, the Houston County Hospital District determines that the petition is in proper form and that an increase of the maximum tax rate would benefit the District then the election will be ordered and held on Nov. 7, 2017,” Blackwell stated.

Blackwell stressed this was only a measure to see if voters authorize the HCHD to raise taxes above the current maximum rate of 0.15 cents per $100 of property valuation.

“The earliest that the tax rate could be raised would be 2018 and any increase that exceeds the rollback rate would be subject to the rollback election procedures as set forth in the tax code,” Blackwell stated.

A list of the current tax rates of hospital districts around the state was also provided by the HCHD president.

“The Houston County Hospital District’s tax rate is number 93 out of 134. This means that 92 hospital districts have tax rates higher and 41 have tax rates lower,” she indicated.

The highest tax rate in the Lone Star State belongs to the Chillicothe Hospital District with a rate of 0.8547 cents per $100 of property valuation. By contrast, the lowest rate – correctly reported to the Texas Comptroller’s Office – belongs to the Grapeland Hospital District with a rate of 0.0099 per $100 of property valuation.

“The Board of Directors is continuing to work on finalizing a lease with CHRISTUS and its hope is that the clinic will be opening sometime in the next week and begin seeing patients,” Blackwell added. “The HCHD is also working hard to find a way, if at all possible, to reopen the emergency department and hospital and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes known.”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.