County Ok’s Costly Mil-Levy Election

By: GPK Media

By a unanimous vote August 20, Sierra County Commissioners approved scheduling an all-mail special election that will determine if area voters will renew a long-standing 2-mil property tax levy utilized to support Sierra Vista Hospital (SVH). The action will ensure all registered Sierra County voters will receive a special ballot through the mail beginning on or about October 8. The ballots must be returned to the Sierra County Clerk’s office no later than 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 29. In addition to the costs of preparing the special ballot, county taxpayers will be footing the bill for related postage fees and overall election expenses. Also, failure to ensure that the measure was included on the 2012 General Election ballot has allowed the previous referendum to lapse and will result in the hospital’s loss of at least the customary tax allotments they would have received for the current 2013-2014 fiscal year. Prior to approving the special election, Commissioner Bobby Allen emphasized his displeasure at the apparent loss of supporting revenue for the hospital. Allen said the special election would not prevent a lapse in support of the hospital and confirmed that monies from the new measure, if approved by voters, would not begin to hit the county’s books until July 2014. Commissioners did not engage in a discussion regarding what parties were responsible for recognizing the pending lapse of the previous mil-levy. Subsequent contact with SVH and county authorities indicates there is significant confusion regarding how the situation was allowed to occur. In order to have been included on last year’s election ballot, action would have had to been taken by May of 2012. Whether the alert should have come from the hospital, the county, or through some kind of notification from the state’s taxation and revenue department, is not readily apparent. The exact amount of funding SVH will lose in the coming months is difficult to accurately assess, as it’s derived from property taxes received. Sierra County Treasurer Teri Copsin estimated the hospital received approximately $500,000 annually through the tax-levy. However, she also confirmed the county was still awaiting payment of delinquent taxes originally due during the previous mil-levy’s term. Copsin also confirmed that when paid, the delinquent tax accounts would have the 2-mils deducted and forwarded to the hospital’s account. Voter approval of the proposed mil-levy would initiate a new assessment cycle beginning next summer. The new cycle would extend for a period of no less than four years and not more than eight years. •In addition to taking this action in hope of aiding the hospital’s finances, board members unanimously supported the appointment of Addie Villagomez to serve as a county representative to the hospital’s governing board. The recent resignation of former governing board chair Barry Ragsdale created the vacancy and commissioners expressed confidence in Villagomez’ ability to fulfill the position’s responsibilities.