Levy lid lift has solid support, but one-time levy trailing

Photo by Don Nelson Three Rivers Hospital’s often-patched roof is one of the critical repair projects at the hospital.

Photo by Don Nelson
Three Rivers Hospital’s often-patched roof is one of the critical repair projects at the hospital.

By Don Nelson

Voters are supporting one of two Hospital District 1 (Three Rivers Hospital) tax levy proposals on the primary election ballot. A permanent levy lid lift looks headed for a win, but a one-year special levy proposal that requires supermajority approval seems destined for defeat.

The hospital district includes the Methow Valley and portions of Okanogan and Douglas counties, so votes from the two counties are combined for final results.

Okanogan County residents are carrying the day for the hospital district with solid approvals for both levies, while Douglas County residents — a much smaller proportion of the voters — are rejecting them both. Okanogan County voting total represent ballots counted as of Monday (Aug. 8), while the most recent ballot count in Douglas County was on Friday (Aug. 5).

Two proposals were on the ballot.

Proposition 1 asked for a one-time “excess levy” of  $1 per $1,000 per assessed valuation, or $100 per $100,000, to be paid in 2016. The levy requires a supermajority vote of at least 60 percent of the votes cast to pass. The tax would expire in 2017. If approved, the one-time excess levy would raise $1.8 million based on current valuation.

Combined votes showed Proposition 1 drawing 1,792 yes votes (54 percent) and 1,538 votes (46 percent). Okanogan County voters supported the proposal with 55 percent in favor of it, while only 43 percent of Douglas County voters approved the measure.

Proposition 2 asked for a levy lid lift that would increase the annual tax levy from .63 per $1,000 assessed valuation to .75 per $1,000, the maximum ongoing amount the hospital is allowed to levy under state law. That would bring the tax bill to $75 per $100,000 of assessed valuation if a majority of voters approve it. The permanent levy lid lift would generate an additional $200,000 per year for ongoing maintenance, repair, equipment and other investments.

Combined results gave Proposition 2 a total of 1,872 yes votes (55 percent) and 1,505 no votes (45 percent). Okanogan County voters supported the measure with 57 percent yes votes, while 39 percent of Douglas County voters were in favor of it.

The district was asking for the tax increases to help pay for upgraded equipment, furnishing and infrastructure.

CEO Scott Graham said earlier that funds raised through the tax increases would be used to modernize and upgrade the hospital, particularly the emergency room. The funds would allow the hospital to relocate the current emergency room to a more modern portion of the building that will provide more space and more efficient monitoring of patients, Graham said.

The money would also be used to replace the roof; fund purchase of X-ray and EKG equipment, patient beds, and an operating table; repair and replace heating and cooling systems throughout the hospital; staff training and education; and centralized patient monitoring, Graham said.

Similar measures were put to hospital district voters at the November 2015 general election. Although Okanogan County voters supported the proposed annual property tax increase by a slim margin, the measure failed because voters in Douglas County rejected it. The levy lid lift proposed by the hospital received 49.11 percent in favor and 50.89 percent opposed.

The special one-time levy proposal received a small majority in favor — 50.75 percent overall — but needed a 60 percent approval rate from voters to pass.