HORACE MCQUEEN: Taxing Authorities Not Always Trustworthy!

Spending taxpayer dollars is easy to do but often a misdirected mess. Office holders, national, state and local — plus special taxing districts need oversight from the taxpayers. Here are just a few examples —and plenty more where these came from.

The folks leading economic development programs in the Tyler area are jubilant that Sanderson Farms has arrived. Sanderson is asking landowners to go in debt hundreds of thousands of dollars building houses to raise chickens for their new processing and hatching plants to be built in the area. Then, there is the 1,200 plus employees that will be needed to operate the plants. Local folks mostly have jobs — and working in a plant gutting chickens and cutting them up into market-ready packages is not that appealing. Many of the workers will be immigrants that can barely house and feed their families on the wages offered. And couple the damage to our highways and rural roads from the heavy trucks hauling feed to the farms and returning with loads of chickens to the processing plant. Then the smell of many of the chicken-raising enterprises often lowers property values of adjacent properties. Taxpayers need to get a handle on letting the economic development gurus use our tax dollars to attract more such industry.

Then there is the push to bring more medical facilities to smaller East Texas towns and cities. The medical profession is changing fast. And the recruitment of professional medical folks is tough. Most want to be located near top rated hospitals and other medical facilities. And their families want restaurants, entertainment choices, mall shopping and more before making a move into a new job. Unfortunately most of our smaller towns and counties can’t provide many of these amenities. 

In Houston County, the hospital district has been in a state of confusion for some time — yet taxpayers keep on electing directors who seem to “go along to get along.” Tons of money is collected each year from the citizens directors were elected to represent. Now the Houston County Hospital District, already over seven million dollars in debt, has plans to bring in investors to reopen the closed Houston County Hospital. The HCHD board was taken for a ride several months ago when they “leased” the hospital to an outside company who was going to operate the hospital. Well, after blowing thousands of dollars of our tax money, the con artists packed up and left taxpayers holding the bag.

As of now, the HCHD district owes over three million dollars to a local bank and four million dollars to ETMC in Tyler. Several of these same directors were successful in the departure of ETMC a couple years ago. That came to a head when some directors — and other locals — built a seven million dollar surgery center adjacent to the hospital — and funneled patients to their facility.

The surgery center owners demanded ETMC buy their “white elephant,” which is now in bankruptcy. ETMC said “stuff it” and after lots of harsh words the hospital board got their comeuppance when ETMC left Crockett — and a closed hospital.

To “solve” the problem, the hospital board is asking Houston County voters to approve in May a hospital tax cap of 35-cents a hundred dollar property valuation. That’s more than double what property owners are taxed now to pay off notes on a closed hospital. There are few counties in East Texas that have hospital districts with taxing authority — regardless of the propaganda coming from the HCHD board. Whether or not the directors bring in a new hospital operator, the seven million dollars in notes outstanding have to be repaid!

Go on the internet and bring up the website of the Texas State Comptroller. Then bring up special district tax rates and levies. This shows all local taxing authorities, by county, in Texas — including the few hospital districts and their tax rates.

Folks in the Grapeland area — they are not in the HCHD district–will soon welcome a new medical facility, open to the public, funded primarily by the Nucor Corporation that operates the Vulcraft plant. The entity will offer urgent care, x-ray, blood testing and much more to meet medical needs of the community. Plus, the Grapeland outfit will be participating with hospitals in larger East Texas cities to get patients the extended care they may need.

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