The last day to register to vote in the upcoming election is May 22. On the June 6 ballot is Measure E, with which the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District seeks a five-year extension of the parcel tax, at $250 a year – a $55 increase.
Without a two-thirds majority to approve, the entire tax will expire on June 30.
Proponents say that because operational costs have risen faster than government reimbursement rates, the parcel tax is critical to fill the gap and keep the hospital open. Additionally, they argue, new regulations and rules have severely limited the length of hospital stays, and financially penalized hospitals for re-admissions, regardless of the cause.
A procedure conducted at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa receives a higher Medicare payment than the exact same procedure conducted at Sonoma Valley Hospital.
The increase in the parcel tax payment from $195 to $250 will generate an additional $850,000 yearly. The revenue would allow pay raises to retain and recruit quality doctors. Overall, a healthy hospital is vital to the economy and culture of a rural town like Sonoma.
There is no formally organized opposition, but detractors argue that an ongoing deficit is indicative of poor or misguided fiscal management and planning. Answering charges that hospital administration is top heavy with overpaid staff, SVHD Board Chair Jane Hirsch said the concern is valid but unfounded.
“The board uses salary and bonus data from various sources for hospitals our size,” Hirsh told The Sun. “We are around the midpoint in our administrative salaries.”
CEO Kelly Mather makes $370,455 a year, Hirsch said. “That may seem like a lot, and it is, but she also serves as the COO, saving our Hospital ten of thousands of dollars per year.” At Healdsburg District Hospital, a similar but smaller hospital, the two jobs are paid a total of $527,500.
Measure E needs a two-thirds majority to pass. In March’s special election, it missed that threshold by about one percentage point. By most accounts, the ‘Yes’ campaign has been much more active in this election cycle.
“If Measure E fails to pass, the hospital will have a major shortfall, and we will be at risk of closure,” Hirsch said. “We have a state of the art hospital and ER serving all comers regardless of ability to pay. Let’s be sure we keep it. Our community deserves no less.”
California has on-line registration at www.registertovote.ca.gov. Postage-paid registration forms are available at city halls, post offices, public libraries, many county government offices, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Voters may also pick up registration forms at the Registrar of Voters Office, 435 Fiscal Drive, Santa Rosa. For more information call 1-800-750-VOTE.