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CMH Petitions Marshall County Commissioners For Right Of The People To Vote On Sales Tax Ballot Question

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MARYSVILLE -¬ Marysville, KS – Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH), Marysville, is asking for the public’s support to put a county-wide sales tax on the ballot in the November 2018 election in support of the hospital. CMH hopes to gather at least 350 signatures on a petition of those who would support the right of the public to make a choice at the polls. A task force plans to present the signatures to the Marshall County Board of Commissioners before the end of June, in order to give plenty of time for a public campaign prior to Election Day.

If implemented, a sales tax would help the non-profit hospital continue to provide quality healthcare services right here in our communities at the same level of care it is providing today. CEO Curtis Hawkinson said the operating loss for 2017 was about $1.5 million, largely due to the $1.3 million in uncompensated care given throughout the year, and the $400,000 annual reduction in Medicare reimbursements to CMH under the federal sequester, a series of cutbacks passed by Congress is 2013.

“In our county, there is a 12-13% uninsured rate,” Hawkinson said. And as Kansas is one of 19 states who have not expanded the Medicaid program to cover more uninsured low-income adults, there is a high number of patients seeking care who either do not have insurance coverage, or are under-insured patients with unpaid bills, he said.

“Medicare reimbursements now only cover up to 99% of our costs for those patients,” Hawkinson said. “In our hospital & clinics, we see about 55% of patients who are on Medicare, resulting in a loss on any service provided to those patients.”

This will not be the first time the hospital has asked the Marshall County Board of Commissioners to have a sales tax question added to the ballot; board members and administration first approached the commissioners in 2016. A motion to add a question to the ballot has failed twice – in 2016 & 2017 – for lack of a second by two different sitting Boards of Commissioners.

“I never thought simply putting the question on the ballot would be the hard part,” Curtis Hawkinson, CEO, said.

Reasoning from commissioners in the past for turning down the ballot question has ranged from potential lack of public support for the sales tax, a desire to keep a potential full-cent tax available to be levied by the county in the future, and a question about the financial transparency of the organization.

Community Memorial Healthcare is a private, non-profit hospital, with no individuals or business stakeholders who benefit financially from the institution. However, the public can sign up to be “corporate members” of CMH with a donation of $100, and as such, receive the ability to attend the yearly corporate meeting, be advised of the current financials, and have a vote when it comes to the election of board members and any bylaw changes to be made.

In 2017, CMH saw 23,809 clinic visits, 4,267 specialty physician visits, 3,495 emergency room visits, and 63 babies born.

If the question is allowed to be put to the voters, the half-cent sales tax would affect any purchases in Marshall County, and would begin January 1, 2019, and terminated 10 years thereafter. The sales tax levy is expected to levy about $650,000 per year in revenue.

Marshall County is one of five counties in Kansas who do not levy a county-wide sales tax. Over 85% of other rural hospitals in Kansas receive some kind of tax support, either from sales tax or property tax. Other surrounding communities who have since levied tax support for their hospitals include Community HealthCare System, Onaga ($1.8 million per year), Clay County Medical Center, Clay Center ($600,000 per year), Nemaha County hospitals ($600,000 per year, split between two facilities), Washington County Hospital, Washington ($200,000 per year), and Hanover Hospital, Hanover, who recently passed a $2.2 million general obligation bond earlier this spring.

If Marshall County were to vote to pass a half-cent sales tax, the total sales tax in Marysville would be 8.6%, Hawkinson said, which is still lower than almost all the surrounding communities in Kansas. Other Marshall County towns would still have a lesser sales tax percentage, as Marysville has the highest city sales tax in the county. This would effectively change the tax paid on a $100 purchase in Marysville from $8.10 to $8.60 after the increase. In Seneca and Sabetha, shoppers are subject to a 9% sales tax, 7.5% in Washington, and up to 9.45% in Manhattan, depending on the retailer’s location.

“People need healthcare, regardless if you’re a retiree, a business recruiting and keeping employees, or a homeowner. Having a local healthcare facility to both employ people and provide services is critical to the continuation of a strong, vibrant, rural community. Here in Marshall County, we pride ourselves on our rural independence, ingenuity, and doing more with less, all while continuing to have high-quality standards, and those same pillars of rural beliefs are certainly true here at Community Memorial Healthcare.”

Community Memorial Healthcare was recently named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the nation for the second year in a row, according to iVantage Health Analytics’ Hospital Strength INDEX. The award is based on providing high quality healthcare, while still maintaining an effective and efficient facility. Only 15 other Kansas hospitals also received this recognition, including Nemaha Valley Community Hospital and Sabetha Community Hospital.

“If a sales tax question is allowed to be put on the ballot, we will still have work to do to educate the voters on the need for this sales tax. But at this point, we are not able to get off first base,” Hawkinson said.

To sign the petition, people can visit the homepage of CMH’s website, www.cmhcare.org, or sign one in person at the main hospital campus or any of its clinic locations.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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