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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Authority

Lakeshore Hosp Authority's Governor Appointed Board backs off tax increase for another year

Pays HMA with tax money and reserves


Board member Lory Chancy and Authority Manager Jack Berry listen to Richard Powell (right) present the 2014 budget. As of October 1st, the Board has banned photos.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Late yesterday afternoon, the Lakeshore Hospital Authority's outside auditor, accountant, and financial advisor, Richard Powell, presented the Lakeshore Hospital Authority's FY 2014 budget. Mr. Powell explained that the Authority “has a lease obligation for the next 27 years that requires you to provide 1.5 mills.” Today, that 1.5 mills translates into $3,331,227 that the Authority Board has obligated the residents and businesses of Columbia County to turn over to HMA this year. The Board reached into Authority reserves to keep the tax rate at .962 mills.

According to Board member Koby Adams, today the Authority has 300 clients. The Authority has claimed that it is there to provide indigent care. This year it will turn over to HMA $3,331,227 or the equivalent of $11,104 a patient. Buying insurance would be cheaper.

The numbers made easy

The Governor appointed Lakeshore Hospital Board has obligated the equivalent of 1.5 mills of tax revenue to be paid to HMA throughout the term of the lease. This year that amount is $3,331,227. A tax rate of .962 mills raises $2,136,247 from the taxpayers. The Authority must pay the difference and come up with $1,194,980 additional from somewhere. They will get that from the reserves. (The millage rate numbers are those provided by the Authority).


Board member Marc Vann addressed the Board. He voted for the photo ban.

Board member Marc Vann pointed out that no additional tax money would be used to come up with enough money to give to HMA and that the plan was to get money from the unallocated rent fund. He said, "The money solely came from rents."

Some members of the Board have a disconnect and don't consider that the income of the Authority is part of all assets that belong to the taxpaying citizens and businesses of Columbia County.

This year's budget includes a 5% across the Board raise for the three employees of the Authority and the Hospital Manager, Jack Berry. The staff received 5% in 2011. Jack Berry pointed out that he did not share in that.

Authority Manager Berry did not mention that in March of 2011 he went from being a part time employee at $46,675 to full time with a salary of $76,125. You can read about that here.


This will be the last picture of Representative Liz Porter's chief aid and LSHA Board member in action. Moments after this photo was taken Mr. Adams told the Observer he didn't want to be photographed. The photo ban does not go into effect until October 1.

Board member Adams clarified the issue regarding the 1.5 mills of tax dollars that goes to HMA every year for 27 years. Finally, it was agreed that it is the equivalent of 1.5 mills of revenue that goes to HMA and if the Board could come up with another source of revenue they would not be required to tax the public.

Mr. Adams then proposed a tax rate of .962 mills for FY 2014. Nobody on the Board looked surprised, including Board member Chancy, who was a big proponent of the 1.5 mill tax rate.

Board Chair Dr. Waseem Khan, who was in favor of the 1.5 mill rate was absent from the meeting.

New Board member Tim Murphy wanted to know if the budget could be amended after it was approved. He was told it could.

Board member Stephen Douglas asked how much was going to be left in reserves if the .962 mill budget was passed.

Mr. Powell told him approximately $3.5 million dollars.


The Authority's external auditor, accountant, and financial advisor, Richard Powell (dark suit) explains the budget. After October 1st, the photo ban passed by the Governor appointed board goes into effect.

The documents made available at the meeting showed a projected ending reserve of $5,026,679 at the .962 tax rate.

No one mentioned the $7 million dollars that Manager Berry claimed was in the bank at the first budget hearing.

Mr. Douglas said, “Three point five million reserves. There’s nothing else out there?”

Mr. Powell answered, “Yes.”

Mr. Adams said he would like to lower the tax rate even more, but he didn’t think he would have support for that.

Mr. Adams praised the management of the Authority. “The moving of 800 or so people down to 300 people on our Indigent Care Program, we’re going to get by for another year, at least,” he said.

Mr. Vann mentioned the tax rate. “I think it’s a shame that we were getting headlines and other writings about the fact that we might have to go back up [raise the tax rate],” he said, “when the other boards in this county use as an excuse not to lower the millage is -- well -- when you have to raise it back up they're gonna criticize you for it.”

Mr. Murphy said the Governor has commended what the Lakeshore Hospital Authority has done. Mr. Murphy questioned the amount of reserves maintained by the Authority and suggested looking into a line of credit.

Board member Lory Chancy mentioned the County Hospital shut down in Hamilton County. A search on the internet reveals that there are "19 hospitals in or near Jasper, Florida.”

Epilogue

The budget passed unanimously. The 1.5 mill rate was forgotten. The numbers are still a bit funky. Not one of the Republicans spoke about getting rid of the hospital and ending one of the highest indigent care hospital tax subsidies in the state.

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