An article in the Jan. 18 Cambrian titled “Budget cuts? Tax increase? Cambria Health District to explore options” highlighted a challenging financial situation facing the Cambria Community Healthcare District Board. The choice to make additional cuts to an already lean budget or generate additional revenues was discussed at length by the CCHD board. A motion was passed 5-0 to hire an outside consultant to assist board members in evaluating and determining the most effective use of their resources within their financial means.
The major revenue sources for the operation of the Cambria Community Healthcare District are derived from property taxes and assessments. 2016-17 fiscal year totals for general property taxes were $493,274 and special assessment was $493,313 for a total of $986,587. Ambulance revenues were $723,443.
While ambulance revenues are a continual monthly source of income, the amount can vary depending on the number of transports and the billing type. Over the past three years, due to the expertise of the administrator and staff of the health care district, the revenues received from ambulance transport reimbursement have been stabilized and the district has benefited from increased ambulance revenues.
While the district has no control over the amount of our property tax revenue, we can have a positive effect on our parcel assessment. Beginning in 1985 with the first parcel assessment to raise additional money for ambulance and equipment replacement, the residents of the district established, by a ballot measure the first annual fee of $3 for unimproved parcels and $7 for improved parcels. Then, in 1994 the voters approved an increase to the assessment on unimproved parcels to $7 and improved parcels to $20 and most recently, in 2006, the ballot measure raised the assessment to $28 on unimproved parcels and $85 on improved parcels. These assessed amounts are per year and are included in our tax bill.
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I propose that the most effective and efficient way for the Cambria Community Healthcare District to significantly increase its revenues is by a ballot measure. There have been three previous ballot measures to raise monies for property improvements, new and replacement equipment and additional personnel. With the ballot measures taking place about every 10 to 12 years, a measure on the 2018 ballot is warranted and could pass.
I believe that the time is now for a ballot measure to increase revenues to be used for deferred maintenance, needed supplies, equipment, and personnel. A ballot measure to increase the unimproved parcel (2,490 parcels) assessment to $35 and the improved parcel (4,255 parcels) assessment to $120 per year would increase the yearly assessment total by $174,000.
A $35-per-year increase on improved parcels is $2.92 per month, around 10 cents per day. It is a very small investment for the peace of mind of ambulance coverage, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. The assessed rates would remain in effect, guaranteeing an ongoing yearly addition of at least $174,000 in revenue.
The health care district administrator and staff have developed ballot measures in the past and are familiar with the process and can probably prepare a measure for the November 2018 ballot if directed by the board.
There are no guarantees that residents of the North Coast would pass a ballot measure, but not putting a measure on the ballot does guarantee that there will be no increase in assessment revenues.
Kristi A. Jenkins is a former president of the Cambria Community Healthcare District board. Her Viewpoint is special to The Cambrian.