Our view: Filling in an unfunded mandate | SierraSun.com

Our view: Filling in an unfunded mandate

Nobody likes taxes or assessments. Municipalities and special districts, such as the Tahoe Forest Hospital District, dislike what governmental types call “unfunded mandates.”

Because of the latter the hospital district is proposing the former: A $98 million general obligation bond that will be secured through local property tax assessments ” Measure C.

The unfunded mandate in question is state Senate Bill 1953, signed into law in 1994. It calls for California hospitals to be seismically upgraded by 2008. Like scores of hospitals in the state attempting to meet the mandate without any funding from Sacramento, Tahoe Forest received a five-year extension until 2013.

Measure C, a special mail ballot that will be sent to registered voters in the district by the end of August, aims to complete the mandated upgrades to the 41-year-old section of the hospital that houses the maternity ward. While that work is being done the district would use the balance of the bond proceeds on other projects that would dovetail with the upgrades, such as a new emergency room, long-term care and cancer facilities.

It’s no secret that the hospital’s last big capital project ” the Western Addition ” blew the budget by $16 million. And in doing so it used up borrowing capacity and operating revenue to complete other seismic work.

Hospital officials point to escalating construction costs as the reason why the last project doubled in cost. The district’s detractors call it mismanagement and the reason why Measure C should be rejected.

Recommended Stories For You

While we understand the apprehension some voters may have regarding the district’s ability to carry out out such a large project, we believe the Western Addition will actually cause managers to be extra responsible on this one, especially considering that the money is coming from property owners to the tune of $9 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Not a staggering amount, but given the public’s dislike of taxes the district knows it can’t go to the well again for more money. That’s why the hospital board has opted to form a citizen’s oversight committee to ensure that the project stays on budget.

What stands out to us, however, is the need to invest in our infrastructure. The Minnesota bridge collapse is a tragic reminder that investment into public facilities has to be made. Yes, many of us suffer from tax fatigue, but at least we have a choice in this case.

As Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens told the Sierra Sun in July, “Some people think this general obligation bond is being forced on them, but with the election the people will get to decide.”

That decision has to be made by two-thirds of voters by Sept. 25. We say yes on Measure C.