Tuesday, 08 May 2018 12:12

County approves post-closure agreement on OCH tax district

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With the closing of Scotland Neck’s Our Community Hospital last December, there will be no levy from a special taxing district which helped fund the medical facility since the 1960s in the county’s upcoming fiscal year budget.

The taxing district was made up of the Palmyra, Roseneath, Scotland Neck and Conoconara townships, according to information contained in the agenda packet for Monday’s Halifax County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Commissioners at that meeting approved an agreement with OCH, addressing the distribution of funds from the special taxing district following the closing of the facility.

(A copy of the original Senate bill establishing the hospital taxing district in 1959 is included as a PDF at the end of this story)

Motor vehicle property taxes in the district will continue to be collected until the end of this fiscal year and delinquent property taxes in the district will continue to be collected until the lien fully expires over the next 10 years.

In a memo to the board contained in the Monday meeting documents, County Attorney Glynn Rollins explained sales and use taxes will continue to accrue to the district for about a year under the ad valorem sales tax distribution method. “These revenues can only be used to support hospital operations,” Rollins said in the memo.

The agreement the board approved Monday addresses the use of post-closure district tax receipts to help cover hospital expenses and obligations incurred prior to the closure.

The hospital has $317,766 in outstanding obligations, Finance Director Mary Duncan said following the meeting.

The objective of the agreement, Rollins said in the memo, “is to prevent the use of hospital district tax revenues for purposes other than the payment of hospital operations.”

The agreement notes the district tax revenues will not be used to cover any prior, current or future expenses associated with any other non-hospital facilities operated by OCH.

OCH continues to operate long term care and assisted living services as Bryan Health and Rehab.

As far as excess taxes, the agreement says the county intends to seek local legislation from the General Assembly and, if necessary, voter approval, to terminate the taxing district and authorize the appropriation and expenditure of those revenues “for a purpose … that will improve the healthcare for the citizens that live in the former hospital tax district. The county will solicit input from OCH as well as other governmental agencies, organizations and citizens regarding how the excess hospital tax district revenues might be best used.”

Rollins said today the county expects some excess revenue but at this point is not sure how much it will be. It is also unsure how the excess may be applied to improve healthcare options for those in the area. “We haven’t had any hard discussions on how the excess may be applied.” If citizens have suggestions they are encouraged to call the county manager’s office at 252-583-1131.

The hospital announced in December it was shutting down its acute inpatient, outpatient and emergency services.

The facility had been losing money for eight years and the hospital’s board could no longer find a way to make it financially viable.

Seventy percent of patients were on Medicaid and Medicare, and another 20 percent were self-pay.

Just 6 to 8 percent were on private insurance, which reimburses at the highest rates. Many of the private insurance patients had large deductibles and coinsurance they couldn’t afford, which turned them into self-pay or charity care cases.

 

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