District Seeks to Uncap Rate

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – In a called meeting of the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) Board of Directors held on Monday, Feb. 5, the board voted unanimously to place a proposition on the May 5 ballot to uncap the tax rate.

As the meeting began, HCHD Board President Deborah Blackwell explained the purpose of the meeting was to consider calling a public hearing as the first step in removing the tax cap, currently set at 15 cents.

“We have received 128 signatures today on a petition,” Blackwell said.

The petition stated: “We, the undersigned of the HCHD, are requesting an election under Texas Health and Safety Code 285.231 to authorize an increase of the maximum tax rate of the HCHD from 15 cents up to 35 cents.”

“As you know,” Blackwell added, “we have tried this before and we lost the (November 2017) election by five votes. We are going back to the voters with another election on May 5 to request increasing the maximum rate to 35 cents.”

She further explained the purpose of the meeting was to acknowledge receipt of the petition and “… to schedule a public hearing which will be here on Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the hospital cafeteria.”

A motion was made seconded and unanimously approved to conduct the public hearing.

Following the approval of the motion, HCHD Board Member Dr. Bob Grier informed those in attendance of a Texas A&M University (TAMU) study being conducted in Crockett and concerning rural health care. Grier said the TAMU group had already made arrangements with several entities to get “… a cross section of the community.

At the conclusion of Grier’s remarks, Blackwell opened up the floor for questions. The first question concerned why the HCHD felt the need to raise the tax cap.

“Based on the research we have done, it shows that hospitals of our size have a tax rate of 19 cents to 35 cents. That is where we are coming up with that number (35). We may not need to raise taxes and wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Blackwell replied.

The next question pertained to who started the petition and Blackwell answered she did. Several other questions followed but were requested to be held for the public hearing.

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