Freedom to accept grants: Montezuma County Hospital District says Referendum 5D will be a win-win

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Montezuma County Hospital District’s supporters are hoping voters agree that its request to lift revenue restrictions is a win-win.

The MCHD wants out of Taxpayer Bill of Right restrictions that currently limit the amount of grant funding it can receive to about $27,000 per year. It has placed Referendum 5D on November’s ballot to accomplish just that.

The TABOR amendment to the Colorado constitution caps revenues that governmental bodies and special districts can receive without holding an election. The MCHD is capped at 5.5 percent under TABOR.

What the hospital district wants is to be able to pursue more grants funded by oil and gas taxes. Its citizen support organization, “Friends of Our Hospital,” says that lifting the restrictions would enable the district to receive up to $1 million in grants per year.

“We are not trying to get away from the part that requires us to have an election if there is a mill levy,” said MCHD chairman Bill Thompson. “This would pertain strictly to grants.”

As a member of MCHD, Thompson cannot advocate for or against the measure itself. His comments to the Free Press were explanatory in nature.

“This will not increase anybody’s taxes. The grants come from oil and gas taxes. It has nothing to do with personal property tax, or anything like that,” Thompson said.

The grants in question are administered by the state Department of Local Affairs.

The hospital district acts as landlord to Southwest Memorial Hospital and the Mancos Valley Health Center. The additional revenues that could be realized if TABOR restrictions were relaxed would be used for such things as medical equipment, boilers, generators and facility improvements.

“It’s strictly capital and infrastructure. None of these funds can be used for operations or salaries and benefits,” Thompson said.

Friends of Our Hospital said in a news release that there is no tax consequence to passing 5D. “The beauty of 5D is that it will cost taxpayers absolutely nothing — not one dime — but it will help our local hospital access funding that is currently unavailable,” FOH committee spokeswoman Karen Sheek said in the release.

The committee says 5D’s passage would help bring technological and care improvements to the hospital.

“You don’t buy a whole lot of medical equipment for $27,000,” said Thompson.

If the measure doesn’t pass, the hospital can expect to incur more debt to meet its equipment needs. “We’ll have to save for years to do things that need to be done soon. Also, if an emergency came up — like if an MRI machine went out — we would have to look for loans to repair and replace it,” he said.

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From October 2013.