Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

June 27, 2013

Up to public to help save hospital through tax

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — Public involvement throughout the latest push to save Pauls Valley General Hospital has so far been limited to vocal support or encouragement by local leaders to use it more often for medical needs.

However, as of Tuesday’s city council meeting, at least part of the facility’s hope for survival will be placed directly in community hands as residents will have a chance to provide financial support.

Presented to council members for consideration by Allan Brooks, the attorney with Public Finance Law Group in Oklahoma City representing said efforts by PV, the hope is to ensure PVGH’s stability through a special election for a half-cent sales tax later this fall.

“James contacted us 45, 60 days ago indicating that the city wanted to do financing that would do helpful things… one, pay off some debt that the hospital had, two provide some monies to take care of some operational or capital needs out at the hospital,” said Brooks, mentioning City Manager James Frizell.

“They wanted to do that in a way that you could put debt in place and go to the voters and simultaneously ask for a sales tax.”

It is a move Frizell and others who have met with a potential hospital suitor feel is necessary since many rural or similar small operations across America are partnering with larger institutions in order to keep up with the changing demands of health care.

The two parties are currently undergoing a due diligence process where all aspects of the PV facility is examined and it was confirmed after the meeting by City Attorney Jay Carlton how said process could be moving toward a conclusion as early as sometime in July.

Ultimately, it would bring mutual benefit since neither party would be significantly out of pocket to clear out the significant amount of accumulated debt held by the hospital.

The plan is get the ball rolling with a line of credit and loan also voted on by council members and then pay off remaining debt and move forward on improvements for the future once there is enough sales tax revenue to cover it all.

“The general idea is these hospitals aren’t self-sufficient anymore,” said Frizell, who expanded on points that the expenses have become too much for a small community on its own to handle.

There were two options presented to council members, one being a sunset tax that would only be collected for a limited amount of time like 10 years or a permanent option, with either reinforced by an ordinance that would only allow the funds to be used to aid PVGH.

Voicing some concern was Hal Blevins, who was not comfortable supporting a permanent tax with the point that so much could change in the years ahead for the hospital and preferred something that could be renewed if needed, but could also be repealed once things improve after a decade.

“Everybody looks forward to the day a tax will be rescinded,” said Blevins.

Frizell also pointed out that there is the potential for $50,000 a month plus revenue and other council members agreed how it will only strengthen what can be offered if that tax remains for an unlimited period.

In the end, the sales tax will be voted on Tuesday, Sept. 10 during the special election, and Brooks noted how if voters say yes to the half-cent, it will be official this next year.

Councilman Patrick Grimmett made the motion to send the permanent version to voters with the result of a 4-1 council result in favor, Blevins being the only one against.

“If voters approve that tax it wouldn’t become effective until January 1, 2014,” said Brooks. “You wouldn’t actually start receiving dollars until March of next year.”

(This is the first part of a two-part article on hospital developments at the meeting. A second part focusing on a line of credit will be featured in a future edition of the PV Democrat.)