The Seabreeze Beacon

Chambers County Best Kept Secret – The Health Services Sales Tax

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It hit me like a rock at last Thursday evening’s Chambers County Public Hospital District #1 candidate forum in Anahuac. The six candidates were asked how they plan to bring in more revenue to the hospital district. Not one candidate mentioned the use of the countywide health services sales tax to provide better/more services to the people of the district. The six candidates, of which three will be elected to the board, are all “in tune” with the needs of the community and want to improve the delivery of healthcare to the people, but, I honestly feel that there is no awareness within the community that Chambers County collects over $12 million/year “to provide health services in the county”. Since the county health services sales tax became effective on April 1, 2001, the county has collected over $90 million to go towards “revenue from the tax imposed under this chapter may be used only to provide health services in the county. The county imposing the tax may allocate all or part of that revenue to: (1) a county hospital authority or a hospital district having the same boundaries as the county : or (2) a public health district in which the county participates.”

Since its inception in 2001, the county has used the tax revenues to fund numerous projects that the county deems relevant to functions that provide healthcare services to the people. These are funding the Chambers County Public Health Department, Chambers County EMS as well as Winnie-Stowell EMS and Mont Belvieu EMS. The tax revenue also funds the county’s volunteer fire departments. While funding the above mentioned departments with tax revenue seems appropriate, there are millions of dollars remaining at the end of the fiscal year that are not designated for a particular use. After funding these departments, as of April 10, 2024, the health services tax has $7,600,000 cash in the bank and $15,800,000 in investments.

There is discussion among Commissioners Court members about using $5 million to $8 million of the health services sales tax to build the new Chambers County EMS building. The county received a $5 million grant from the State for the project. The price tag has increased from $7.8 million to $16 million. So, monies from the health services sales tax fund could range from $5 million to as much as $8million. The Court agrees that the project costs must be knocked down several million dollars. But should the Court spend $8 million on brick and mortar?

The question remains … since the intent of the health services sales tax revenue is to “provide health services in the county” … and “to the treatment and prevention of physical pain and disease to the public” … why is not part of the revenue being allocated to the two hospital districts in the county that were created specifically to provide healthcare services to its people? Why are the people within the boundaries of the Chambers County Public Health District #1 having to pay an additional ad valorem tax to keep a hospital in Anahuac?

I have asked if the $16 million EMS building is a “priority” for our county. A new facility is needed but what happened to the original price tag of $7.8 million?

Our county is growing, and it is aging. We have an older generation that needs assistance and a much younger generation that needs access to preventive healthcare. A couple of millions of dollars a year in our county can provide a much needed and much wider network of quality healthcare for everyone. It is time to reconsider the use of the revenue from the health services sales tax which was intended to “provide health services in the county”.

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