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Lindsay Hospital District responds to Kaweah Delta consolidation study

Lindsay Hospital District responds to Kaweah Delta consolidation study

After a Kaweah Delta consolidation study, funding concerns with the City the Lindsay Hospital District reiterates their stance on independence and notes relationship efforts with City

@TheSunGazette

LINDSAY – Nearly two months ago the Lindsay Hospital District, along with others including Kaweah Delta appeared in the news. Discussion arose of a study by QK Inc. for Kaweah Delta over what a consolidation of all Tulare County hospital districts would look like. The item was preliminary but still caught districts by surprise.

Lindsay Local Hospital District (LLHD) attorney Starr Warson addressed consolidation talks in early July noting that it was likely far fetched because of funding control.

“We already have a partnership and I don’t see the board wanting to give up local control of its funding,” Warson said. “I think they would question how much of the tax revenue would stay in the community if it was part of a larger district.”

A month ago, Warson issued a press release on behalf of the LLHD’s Board of Directors outlining the District’s requirements since the hospital closed in 1996. Warson noted that by law, health care districts are to establish, maintain, and operate or provide assistance in the operation of one or more health care facilities or health services, wellness and prevention programs, and any other health care provider groups and organizations necessary for the maintenance of good physical and mental health in the District.

The District gathers their funding from property taxes. Warson outlined that property taxes collected within its boundaries which is 73.5 square miles which includes the City of Lindsay, 2.8 square miles.  Property taxes are set by law and the legislature.  The revenue is then divided between the county, cities, and districts within the county.  Each county has various subdivisions, and boundaries for cities, school and special districts, and assessment districts.  Each receives a portion of the tax revenue.

Warson noted that the District has spent $6.2 million on a variety of services including all aspects of the Wellness Center from construction and equipment to debt service and the McDermont Field House rebranded in 2018 as McDermont X. 

Warson also addressed recent friction between the City of Lindsay and the LLHD. When the City was pouring over their budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, director of finance Bret Harmon noted that operations at the Wellness Center could be in serious doubt if the LLHD board did not offer their regular discretionary funding beyond their agreed debt service contribution. 

Harmon says the Board has been steadily decreasing their contribution from $112,000 in 2017, to about $70,000 last year and only play to provide about $60,000 this year.

Since then there has been efforts for the two governing boards to connect and talk about funding and services. As recently as this month there has been a subcommittee formed between members of the two districts. Warson pointed out that the District’s main focus is still to help provide services to those in Lindsay and the hospital district.

“Local control of taxpayer money is always a priority and supporting activities within its statutory guidelines is the objective of the Lindsay Local Hospital Board of Directors to benefit those within its boundaries,” Warson wrote in a press release. “Without the Hospital District, these grants and assistance funds would likely not be available to support local programs, services, and professionals in the district boundaries.”

As for consolidation with Kaweah Delta, there are a couple of paths according to the Local Area Formation Committee (LAFCo) which oversees the boundaries of local jurisdictions. Under Gov. Code 5700, at least 25% of property owners or 25% of the voters in both the hospital districts would have to file a formal protest to force an election to consolidate the districts for voters in both districts. If not, the consolidation could happen without a vote of those living in the district or the board they elected to represent them. Regardless of voter opposition, both healthcare districts would still have to file plans for or against the merger and would both have the opportunity to attend a hearing held by LAFCo. 

The issue is somewhat of a moot point as Kaweah Delta has since said it would not consider a merger unless the other hospital district was interested. 

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