Vote YES on hospital levy election

Shootin' the Breeze

Voters in Perkins County will take center stage when they decide in the coming weeks whether or not to continue supporting their hospital with a tax levy of 3.5 cents per $100 of valuation for another five years. 

In the General Election last November, the Perkins County Hospital District’s request to continue a 3.5-cent levy for hospital operations failed by a vote of 609-783.

What’s ironic about that outcome is that the hospital wasn’t asking for anything different than Perkins County voters have been approving since 1994. In fact, in 1994 voters approved a 7-cent levy authority for the hospital—twice what it is now!

Supporters of the levy authority, which yields slightly more than $465,000 for hospital operations, have speculated as to why voters denied the request. 

Perhaps voters were sending a message they didn’t like the fact they didn’t get to vote on the $15.4 million expansion and renovation project approved by the board.

Perhaps they felt the same thing happened with the new school addition, so this vote was a statement against that.

Perhaps people didn’t believe Perkins County needed a new hospital or that the new facility was way overbuilt and far too expensive. 

As someone who has watched Chase County go through the process of exploring a new hospital, I can assure you Perkins County got a bargain at $15.4 million.

Perhaps voters thought the hospital was trying to slip one by them by asking for more funds to pay for the new facility.

Granted, not one of us wants to pay more taxes. But the conundrum of November’s outcome was that voters weren’t being asked to pay any more in taxes to support the hospital than they already were. 

In addition, the hospital targets tax funds for the purchase of equipment, technology and other capital improvements—not for paying off the long-term debt of the new facility.

If someone came up to you and offered to give you $165 for every $100 you had, I’m guessing you’d take the deal. That’s the value of receiving tax dollars for the operation of the hospital. 

Because of the way Medicare and Medicaid reimburse critical access hospitals for their expenses, those tax dollars spent on equipment and operations multiply, returning about $1.65 for every $1 spent.  

The intrinsic value of the hospital, related services and entities provided by Perkins County Health Services simply can’t be measured in dollars and cents. 

One doesn’t fully appreciate that until they get sick or hurt and have to go to the hospital. Perkins County can boast of having a state-of-the-art facility and the doctors and staff to go with it. 

It’s possible right now you’re asking yourself why somebody who resides in Chase County has any right to be telling people in Perkins County what to do. You might be right. 

But I grew up in Grant and own a business here and Grant and Perkins County will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Regardless of whether it’s in Grant or Imperial, exceptional healthcare plays a vital role in the success of a town and region. Without it, the opportunity for any growth evaporates. Is that what we want?

Granted, if people feel strongly enough not to support the hospital with tax dollars, as they have been doing for years, so be it. It won’t shut down your hospital tomorrow. But what message does that convey for the future? 

Voters in Perkins County have a crucial decision to make. Obviously I won’t be getting a ballot to cast a vote. But if I did, I would vote YES as an investment in the future of the hospital.

I’m encouraging you to do the same. Vote YES!

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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PO Box 67
327 Central Ave in Grant
Grant NE 69140