Hospital district wants to ‘deBruce’

By Jim Mimiaga Journal staff writer

In November, the Montezuma County Hospital District will ask voters for permission to access state grants for medical and infrastructure improvements.

As a government agency collecting a mill levy, MCHD is not eligible for state grant money if the amount causes total tax revenues to exceed yearly spending limits under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Voter approval is needed to override TABOR in order to keep grant funds that exceed its spending limits.

“We’re not applying for some state grants we qualify for as a rural care provider because we know the amount will push us over the limit,” said MCHD board member Dean Matthews during a special meeting Monday.

The board emphasized that they are not asking for a tax increase.

If voters approve the measure, the district would be freed up to apply for and obtain additional grant funds that would otherwise be unavailable due to the TABOR revenue cap.

“State grants help us pay for things that are too big for our budget, like replacing aging boilers and updating infrastructure,” said board member Bill Thompson.

State grant money is often distributed by the Department of Local Affairs and is a separate revenue source from the mill levy.

The district said that if the measure passes — sometimes called “deBrucing” after TABOR author Douglas Bruce — it only allows the district access to additional state grant funding.

The board said that even with a successful deBrucing the hospital district’s tax revenues are still limited by state statute to a 5.5 percent growth rate from the previous year’s total.

“That revenue limit stays no matter what; we are not asking for a mill increase,” said MCHD board member Fred DeWitt.

He said the hospital district is the only government entity in Montezuma County that has not been deBruced.

“It will benefit the community; it will be used for equipment for patient care, and it will allow us to go for the bigger grants,” said MCHD board member Shawna McLaughlin.

The board is appointing a special committee to help promote the ballot measure and provide information about it to the public.

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