Tahoe Forest CEO on Measure C tax hike: ‘No one really expected this recession’
August 31, 2012
TRUCKEE, Calif. – One resident expressed dissatisfaction to the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors Tuesday evening regarding its vote last month to increase the burden on property owners who are paying off the Measure C tax.According to the district, during the July 31 board meeting, directors unanimously voted to increase the Measure C tax rate to $30.67 per $100,000 of assessed property value.For the 2011-12 fiscal year, residents had been paying a rate of $21 per $100,000 assessed property value, a figure that would have been $23.92 per $100,000, had the board not elected to contribute $444,000 to the bond’s debt service payment, confirmed Crystal Betts, chief financial officer for Tahoe Forest Hospital District, during interviews this week.This year, the board elected not to contribute toward the debt service payment due to several reasons, including the uncertain impact of national health care reform, Betts said, causing the tax rate to jump up by $9.67 per $100,000 assessed property value for the 2012-13 fiscal year.”Yes, (it’s) legal, but I’m wondering about the responsibility you folks are showing toward or not showing toward us voters and taxpayers,” Truckee resident Gaylan Larson told the board of directors on Tuesday.Back in September 2007, when Measure C was up for public vote, it was estimated that property owners within Tahoe Forest Hospital District would pay between $8.87 and $17.42 per $100,000 assessed property value over a 30-year period, according to the ballot measure.”We never said that we were going to have the average,” said hospital board director Roger Kahn at Tuesday night’s meeting. “We said right about now we would be hitting the maximum, which was $18 and some odd cents.”According to the district, in November 2006, the original maximum estimated tax rate per $100,000 assessed value was $18.76.
“In 2007, we did three different surveys and we got our priorities set, we got expectations in terms of cost set – we can raise about $100 million – and we had expectations for what we thought it would cost people; it wasn’t a guarantee,” said Bob Schapper, CEO of Tahoe Forest Hospital, after the meeting. “No one really expected this recession.”According to the minutes of the July 31 meeting, Betts said that before 2008, the area had historically seen an increase in the housing market. Once the recession hit, the economy took a downturn and property values declined.”Oh, you say don’t worry about our tax rate because our lower valuation will cause our payment to be about the same,” Larson, who’s also a trustee on the Tahoe Truckee Unified District board, told the hospital board Tuesday. “That was quoted in a Moonshine Ink article (published Aug. 24) by some of you board members. … I didn’t have any change in my (property) evaluation.”Betts looked at her own property bill to help determine the cost difference of the Measure C hike, and found there was about a $3 change, according to the July 31 meeting minutes. In that same meeting, she said her personal example wouldn’t apply to all hospital district parcel owners. Only those who bought their home during the housing bubble would see a decline in their assessed property value, she said.Schapper said he is not one of those who has seen a decline in his property value.”The appraised value of my home is higher than when I paid for my home eight years ago, and that is today with four years of the recession,” he said. “So I’m in one of those neighborhoods that my appraised value is higher, and this gentleman is probably in a situation where his appraised value didn’t drop. We will be paying the higher portion of that tax, but it is balanced off with others whose values dropped.”Schapper later added, “Yes, none of us wants to be taxed more. I am not a pro-tax guy by any means, but I really believe in the balance that we want to have great fire services, we want to have great churches, we have great leadership in volunteerism, you need to have great hospitals.”
The Measure C bond sought to construct a new on-site cancer center building, which has since been completed; expand and upgrade the emergency department and long-term care; fund women’s health and maternity care; and make state-mandated seismic upgrades.Seventy-two percent of the 6,782 hospital district voters who cast a mail-in ballot in September 2007 supported Measure C, which needed a two-thirds majority (67 percent) to be adopted.”If we don’t have the support of the community through this tax to be able to build the facilities that we have, babies will not be delivered in this hospital any longer,” Schapper said Tuesday. “That was a very fundamental program that the community wanted to see remain in this community when we went out to vote in 2007.”We understand economic conditions have changed. It’s challenging for all of us, but at the same time, fundamentally, do we want to continue to have babies here? If we do, then that tax support needs to be there. If we want a modern emergency room, then that tax support needs to be there.”Having these services and administering high quality care has a ripple effect on the community, said Schapper, who added that a good local health care system attracts retirees and second homeowners as well as helping area employment figures by providing jobs and retaining personnel.”It would be very easy for people to say, ‘Hey, you weren’t considerate about my taxes,'” Schapper said. “Well, the board was very considerate about it, but it was for the better good of the community as a whole that those decisions were made.”The Measure C tax rate has the potential to fluctuate over time based on the debt service payment required and assessed property values, a calculation the Tahoe Forest board must review every year, Betts said.