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Voters Casting Ballots on Hospital Measure

Ballots are due at 8 p.m. today. (Patch Archive)
Ballots are due at 8 p.m. today. (Patch Archive)
Voters in different parts of Contra Costa County still have a chance to cast their ballots today on two school district parcel tax extensions and a parcel tax meant to prevent a public hospital from closing.

In the West Contra Costa County Healthcare District, which stretches from Crockett to Kensington, residents are voting on Measure C, a 14-cent tax on each square foot of developed property, or about $210 for a 1,500-square-foot home.

The measure is designed to keep Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo open and needs two-thirds voter approval to pass.

Measure C proponents say the parcel tax is a last-ditch effort to keep the financially struggling hospital open and that if it fails, the hospital could close as soon as July.

County Supervisor John Gioia, a member of the hospital's governing board, said Doctors Medical Center is losing about $17 million annually, largely because the majority of the 40,000 patients it serves are either uninsured or Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

Cuts to administrative positions and overhead and funding from the state and neighboring hospitals have allowed Doctors Medical Center to keep its doors open, but with funding dried up and nowhere else to cut, the hospital is again looking to the voters, according to Gioia.

Unlike parcel tax measures passed by voters in the healthcare district in 2004 and 2011, Measure C would be enough to close the hospital's budget gap, the supervisor said.

Gioia and other Measure C supporters have pointed out that the San Pablo hospital's closure would eliminate West Contra Costa County's only certified stroke and heart attack center and increase wait times at neighboring Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center by up to 10 hours, according to a county study.

However, opponents to the tax say the hospital's revenue stream has long been unsustainable and that the measure wouldn't fix the hospital's underlying financial issues.

Opponents, including a number of homeowners and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, say burdening already heavily taxed residents with another parcel tax is unfair. Ballot arguments against the measure included speculation that the hospital wouldn't close due to Measure C's failure.

"It can go into bankruptcy as it did in 2006 in spite of getting the 2004 parcel tax revenue and stay open," one argument reads.

Voters in the Acalanes Union High School District -- which includes parts of Moraga, Orinda, Lafayette and Walnut Creek -- are considering Measure A, the extension of a $112 parcel tax passed in 2010 meant to continue funding advanced academic courses and up-to-date classroom technology and materials. The measure requires two-thirds voter approval to pass and would mean taxpayers would continue to pay the yearly tax, which is set to expire on June 30, 2015.

Measure A does not include an expiration date. Property owners aged 65 or older may apply to the district to be exempt from the tax. Supporters say Measure A funding would preserve funding of advanced math, science, technology, English, foreign language and arts classes and prepare more than 5,000 local students for college. The funding will also allow the district to attract and retain highly qualified teachers.

Opponents, including the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, say the district's deficit has grown by more than $2 million over the past two years and that incoming revenue based on future enrollment and growth is uncertain. The taxpayers association has recommended a "no" vote on the measure "because the tax is permanent (no sunset review) and because the increase in deficits may become the norm requiring future additional property tax increases," a statement from the association reads.

The Lafayette School District has proposed Measure B, a $539 parcel tax approved by voters in 2007 and again in 2011 to fund core academic programs and the arts for the district's four elementary schools and one middle school. The tax requires two-thirds voter approval to pass and would rise annually based on inflation, though not by more than 3 percent per year. An expiration date is not included in the measure. Seniors 65 and over are eligible for an exemption. Supporters say the tax revenue would provide continued funding of math, science, technology, English and arts programs and up-to-date materials and technology and would promote manageable class sizes.

But Measure B opponents say they plan to vote "no" because of the permanence of the tax, which has no expiration date, and the fact that it will increase yearly. Voters who have not yet mailed in their ballots may turn them in to a ballot return center until 8 p.m. today.

Ballot return center locations and other election information can be found at www.cocovote.us.

--By Bay City News
Louise B. May 06, 2014 at 05:36 PM
I wll be voting NO on the hospital parcel tax. Why? There are several reasons. (1) It will raise my property taxes over $300/year. (2) Parcel taxes were raised for Doctors Hospital in Pinole several years ago and look what happened to that facility -- gone. (3) This tax is another redistribution of wealth. Homeowners will be subidizing the insurance for Medi-Cal recipients, who pay nothing for their insurance. (4) You can bet that, with Obamacare, the hospitals will be losing even more money down the road because the government will reduce paymens for their services -- and there will be another parcel tax down the road. When is it going to stop???
Patty O'Day May 06, 2014 at 07:10 PM
When will these ballots be counted? When will we know what won and what lost?
Louise B. May 06, 2014 at 10:14 PM
Phil, haven't you heard? The Federal/State governments are now running the healthcare system.
Dwayne Hoover May 06, 2014 at 11:38 PM
No, actually the Feds have done nothing other than to give the insurance companies another 8 million customers. Rest assured the insurance companies are the beneficiaries of the new healthcare program, as was intended when the Republicans came up with the program to counter Hillary, Bill, and Kennedy's National Healthcare plan long ago.
Patty O'Day May 07, 2014 at 02:59 PM
Sure Phil, whatever you say. Stay calm.

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