County says they look to cut hospital’s SPLOST funds

Published 8:45 pm Friday, January 24, 2014

The Decatur County Commission expressed intent to cut the 12 percent of special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST funding, that currently contributes to Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge.
The SPLOST VI referendum will come to a vote for residents on the May primary ballot but city and county officials have to first finalize and agree on the allocation. The hospital currently receives 12 percent of the area’s SPLOST funds and according to Memorial Hospital CEO Billy Walker, equates to an estimated $500,000 per year.
Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove said the county is currently discussing the amount they want to cut from Memorial Hospital’s SPLOST fund percentage, but don’t have a specific number in mind yet.
“I think if the county is going to take action on the responsibilities that we have, it’s going to impact what percentage the hospital gets,” Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove said.
According to Breedlove, Decatur County has various state mandated projects they need to maintain. That, in addition to maintaining Decatur County roads, buildings and capital, warrants a bigger slice of the SPLOST percentage.
In response, the Bainbridge City Council voted Tuesday at their meeting to “stand united” and support keeping the 12 percent allocation of SPLOST funding to the hospital. The vote in favor of keeping the allocation as is was unanimous.
Walker spoke to the council at the beginning of the meeting to express his concern for the upcoming referendum on SPLOST. Walker asked the council to support the 12 percent distribution and spoke on the importance of the hospital in the community and the role the SPLOST funding plays in the budget.
“Last year we provided more than $9 million in uncompensated care to patients without the ability to pay for their health care needs,” Walker said. “This fiscal year we will provide more than $10 million in uncompensated care.”
Walker said the $500,000 received annually from SPLOST is used to fund capital improvements and purchasing of capital equipment. The hospital budgets $1.5 million for those improvements and purchases, to which SPLOST provides one third of the funds.
Memorial Hospital and Manor is a 34-year-old facility that Walker said needs $3.7 million in improvements. He said the hospital already anticipates more funding cuts from the federal government totaling to $1.2 million each year by 2021 from the Affordable Health Care Act.
SPLOST is a one cent sales tax used for capital outlay projects of a permanent long-lived nature.
Staff writer Powell Cobb contributed to this report.