Hospital district directors adopt new budget
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
PRESIDIO, BREWSTER COUNTIES – Big Bend Regional Hospital District directors have approved 2012-2013 budget larger than last year’s for some breathing room for future endeavors.
The new budget is up $142,787 from last year’s budgeted expenditures. Total expenditures in the new budget is $1,178,716.
Also up is the tax rate, which is now set at 12.5 cents per $100 valuation. That rate is up from last year’s property tax rate of 12.12 cents per $100 valuation.
The hospital district encompasses Presidio and Brewster counties.
Under the new budget, tax revenues from Brewster County are $727,090. That figure is $32,078 more than was generated last year.
In Presidio County, tax revenues in the current year were $319,912. This year’s expected revenue is $376,992, a $57,080 increase.
“The budget is going to allow for various expansions,” said Maria O’Bryant, Executive Secretary for the bi-county hospital district.
The hospital district has received two $25,000 grants from the Meadows and Brown foundations. Those dollars will fund the Marfa Meds program, which is designed to save Marfa and other Presidio County residents driving time to pick up their prescriptions at Alpine pharmacies. An additional $4,000 has been allotted to the Marfa Meds program for supplemental purposes. The Marfa Country Clinic will also receive $10,000 for a telemedicine system.
There is an EMS scholarship budgeted for $6,000, as well as a scholarship for medical students, also $6,000. Missing in this year’s budget is a nursing scholarship, which O’Bryant says may come from other discretionary funds.
Hospital District directors also budgeted $4,000 to begin moving forward on a nursing home in the area.
A big chunk of change, $40,000, has been budgeted to repair the roof of a hospital district building on Texas Street in Marfa leased by Presidio County Health Services.
“That’s a biggie,” O’Bryant said, “They’re have been no major repairs for years. The roof is in desperate need of repair.”
Also in the new budget is $75,000 for each of the counties for physician recruitment.
Missing from the new budget is funding for a Marfa ISD school nurse despite a funding request from the Marfa school board. The hospital district funded the salary for the public school nurse in Marfa in fiscal 2011-2012. Marfa ISD has funded the position in its deficit budget.
“As need arises and requests come in, it will be considered,” O’Bryant said of medical enhancements for schools in the hospital board’s district.
Allen Haley, a hospital district board member, pushed that point hard. “It’s not in the budget, but it’s not necessarily a dead issue,” he said of funding a Marfa school nurse. “If money surfaces in the year, then there’s a good opportunity to fund it.”
Haley said the position was not funded due to an inability to reach a consensus throughout the district, but discussions are still under way. “We had to make some real tough cuts. That was one of my favorite programs. It’s not dead.”
The hospital board is also currently short two board members, both in Presidio County, following the recent resignation of Elena Olivas and Jim Blumberg, who didn’t seek re-election in May. Those positions will likely be filled at the board’s meeting at 6:45pm today at the district office at 801 East Holland Avenue in Alpine.
Applicants for the two positions are Presidio City Administrator Marco Baeza and Marfa nurse Betty Nuñez.
The two were urged to apply by Presidio County Judge Paul Hunt and other community members.
“I would like to very much express my personal appreciation and appreciation of the board for all the assistance that we received from Presidio County in helping us find people to fill the vacancies,” Haley said.
Current board members are Haley, Jean Pearce of the Pearce Clinic in Alpine, and Christina Alvarado.
In addition, there’s $24,000 for the Presidio Medical Clinic to serve the county’s indigent patients. The enabling legislation creating the two-county hospital district mandates that the district operate a clinic in Presidio County. Since it doesn’t at present, this earmark is designed to remedy that requirement.
There’s also $425,000 for the uncompensated care of indigents of the two counties, money that goes to the state for a state and federal match that ultimately goes to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine.
Regarding the tax increase, Haley said raising the rate a little more than a third of a cent is due to a shortage of federal funding for indigent care and Medicare, which are “being significantly cut.”
“Because of cuts, we are anticipating having to spend more for medical care that we provide,” Haley added. He also noted that the hospital board will have future discussions about offsetting the loss of federal funds by ultimately, and gradually, raising the tax rate to 16 cents per $100. “We’d rather be judicious in increases,” Haley said to the possibility of slightly raising the tax rate over many years.
Looking back at the budget, Haley said that some concerns had arisen in the district over salary increases to hospital district employees.
The new budget shows a 35 percent salary increase for O’Bryant, at $50,000, and a 15 percent increase for her assistant, Jerri Jones, at $30,000. That, Haley said, is not the case.
“That is simply planning money. We have not authorized any change in salary for district employees,” Haley explained.
He added that board members will, in the future, discuss streamlining the hospital district to make it function more efficiently. That could included changing the executive secretary position to executive director with new responsibilities and could increase the pay. None of those things will happen without first discussing the matter in an open format for the public to participate said Haley.
“We are not currently moving forward to even discuss (the change) in position. We have a lot to do to define a new position and define new responsibilities to make the district more administratively efficient and administratively friendly.”
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