Voters passing Olympic Medical Center's property tax levy show that residents of
Sequim and the rest of the North Olympic Peninsula recognize and appreciate what the hospital and the hospital district provide, said OMC board member Jim Leskinovitch.
"I'm really heartened by the public that could see and decide that a great hospital needs their support and they stepped up and gave it," he said following last week's board of directors' meeting.
Clallam County wouldn't have the doctors and all the medical services they provide if it weren't for the quality of the hospital, Leskinovitch said.
The latest election results from the Clallam County Auditor's Office show the measure leading with 8,894 "yes" votes, almost 53.8 percent, versus 7.642 "no" votes or about 46.2 percent. It needed 50 percent plus one to pass.
The hospital district's regular property tax levy rate will increase from the current level of 11 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation to 44 cents per $1,000 for collection in 2009.
The money generated will go toward improving the hospital's emergency room, inpatient services, recruiting and retaining new doctors, continuing services to uninsured and underinsured patients and programs on wellness and chronic disease management.
Leskinovitch said the additional money provided by the increased levy will mean the district can avoid cutting programs and services.
Levy passage also was important because of the district's high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients - 70 percent, well above the state average of 50 percent - and the low reimbursement rates from those programs, he said.
"The Medicare system is in a state of implosion. We're the forerunner of the rest of the country because of our demographics," Leskinovitch said.
Clallam County has an estimated 16,553 residents 65 years old and older, almost 24 percent of the population, which trails only Jefferson, San Juan, Pacific and Lincoln counties.
"Washington, D.C., and Olympia aren't going to help us. Local people have to help us and they did and I'm gratified," Leskinovitch said.
On May 21 the OMC board of commissioners passed a resolution to place the levy tax increase on the Aug. 19 ballot. Olympic Medical Center had not approached the voters for an increase in more than 60 years.
For the owner of a $250,000 home - the cost of an average house in Hospital District 2 - tax paid to OMC will rise from $27.50 each year to $110.
That amount would remain constant, costing owners more and producing more revenue as a property's value climbs.
OMC's tax revenue is projected to grow from $836,060 to $3,344,241, an increase of more than $2.5 million.
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