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Hospital now eyes sales tax





WaKEENEY -- With cash flow still tight, Trego County commissioners learned about a new round of community hearings focusing on financial help for Trego County's hospital.

They also heard concerns from residents about the extent of help being offered to the hospital.

Two of the upcoming meetings are set for Thursday -- at 3 and 7 p.m. in the Western Electric Cooperative meeting room.

Trego County-Lemke Memorial Hospital CEO Harold Courtois just finished a series of community meetings, but the focus then was on the issuance of $1.8 million in no-fund warrants.

The upcoming round of meetings will look to the hospital's push for a 1-percent sales tax, the bulk of which will go to the hospital.

The $1.8 million effectively will go toward bringing the hospital current on its finances, which stand at approximately $925,000 in total accounts payable.

The hospital, Courtois told commissioners, is holding onto checks amounting to approximately $186,000 and holding creditors at bay -- with a promise of payment as soon as money from the no-fund warrants arrive -- on another $739,000.

Money raised by the warrants will have to be repaid from property taxes during the next four years. At current levels, the levy is expected to go up at least 8 mills.

Ballots on the proposed 1-percent sales tax are to be mailed Feb. 28; they must be returned by March 19. The tax would take effect July 1 if it's approved by voters.

Trego County Commission Chairman Dean Papes said the county also hopes to boost the hospital mill levy to about 5 mills in 2014.

It was after Courtois made his monthly report concerns were voiced.

Cary Fose was among them, asking if the commissioners had considered the effect a sales tax would have on existing businesses, including Central Pump and Supply, a business she and her husband, Jay, operate.

"If we go up 1 percent, we're going to be higher than most of the surrounding communities," she said. "So if someone spends $100,000, this will cause people to go elsewhere."

Or, Fose said, many of the purchases will rely heavily on deliveries, which triggers the state's destination tax provision -- that of taxing a purchase where it is delivered.

"What we would have to do is deliver everything we have been selling," she said. "I don't want our business to fail because we're charging 1 percent more."

Papes said the effect of the sales tax on existing businesses was considered.

"With the sales tax, we get a lot of people who come through our community to help," he said.