Understanding the ballot: The Health Services District
Early this month, Craig and Moffat County residents will receive their 2021 ballots, due back to be counted by Nov. 2.
On those ballots are a number of questions, including candidates for city council, school board and more. Among those questions are two ballot issues — a bond for the school district and the creation of a special taxing district.
The special taxing district is a proposed Health Services District, or HSD. If passed, the ballot issue would create a distinct, independent government entity like a library district, fire district or school district. Every special taxing district is run by an elected board, and this would be no different. It also levies property taxes, which, like any government entity in Colorado, are governed and regulated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
Following are answers to several common questions about the HSD.
What would the HSD do?
Every special taxing district has a purpose. School districts administer education to children, fire districts fund and manage fire departments, and library districts fund and manage the library. Just like those districts, the HSD would fund and manage ambulance and emergency medical services in Moffat County.
Currently, there are three ambulance services in the county, two in Craig and one in Maybell.
By far the largest and busiest service — the only staffed full-time by professional paramedics — is the one owned and operated by Craig’s Memorial Regional Hospital. The other ambulance in Craig is owned by the county and operated by the Office of Emergency Management. It is not staffed full-time, and it only responds on a back-up basis to regional calls.
The Maybell service is owned by the county and operated primarily by volunteers. The Maybell Ambulance Service, which is funded at about $30,000 annually by the Moffat County commissioners using tax dollars, has one part-time employee and has been staffed since the early 1970s by local volunteer emergency medical technicians.
The MRH ambulance service is costing the hospital more than $600,000 in financial losses per year, the hospital says. That is a problem for the public hospital, which has not threatened to cut the service, but has expressed that it’s possible or even likely that it would have to back off staffing the ambulances 24/7 at the very least.
The HSD would take MRH’s ambulance service off the hospital’s hands and would, funded by county property taxes, own and operate an ambulance service that would serve the entire county.
That includes Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur. Craig, proponents of the district promise, would have sustainable, long-term, high-quality 24/7 EMS for as long as the district was in operation without fear of losing it. Dinosaur would for the first time have a dedicated ambulance service — currently the town relies on service from Utah when residents need emergency care. Maybell’s existing ambulance service would be funded by and partially operated by the new taxing district, as well.
The hospital will give the HSD all of its existing ambulance equipment, including the vehicles. It has also agreed to contract with the HSD in the short-term to provide billing and human resources services until the HSD can find another contractor to provide those services.
What will it cost?
If passed, the HSD will levy 2.5 mills. To know how much that would cost a residential property owner requires some simple math.
Mill levies are calculated by multiplying the property value by the property assessment rate, then multiplying that amount by the number of mills. Finally, divide by 1,000 (that’s what “mill,” the latin root for 1,000, refers to).
Say your house is worth $200,000. The residential property assessment rate is 7.15%, so multiple 200,000 by .0715. That equals 14,300. Multiply that by 2.5 and you get 35,750. Divide that by 1,000 and you’ve arrived at the property taxes gathered by the HSD per year: $35.75.
By way of comparison, Moffat County School district currently levies 31.826 mills (that number might go up next year, depending on the result of another ballot issue), and the county levies 23.907. Between those two entities, county residents with $200,000 actual-value homes are paying nearly $800 a year in property taxes. The city, fire district, water districts, college and others also levy their own mills, meaning a Craig resident with a $200,000 actual-value home pays $1168 per year in property taxes before the addition of the proposed HSD.
Commercial property is assessed at a much higher rate. Business owners now pay and would continue to pay more property taxes.
Who will be in charge?
Like any taxing district, technically, the people are in charge.
More realistically, a few people elected by the people are in charge. In the case of the HSD — as is often the case in smaller taxing districts across the state — the people actually don’t have a choice in the matter of who will represent them this first time around. That’s because only five people are running for five seats on the prospective HSD board.
Those five people are Ryan Hess, a Craig city councilman who is also the only candidate for Craig mayor, Alicia Noland, Jacie Jourgenson, both Craig residents, Clint Jantz, a Maybell resident, and Nichole Becker, a Dinosaur resident.
These positions will have terms, however, and new board members can be elected each time a term ends.
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