Kaweah Delta looks to expand its horizons in Tulare County

Study presented to hospital’s board suggests district merger with Dinuba, Exeter, Lindsay and Woodlake to expand its boundaries, tax base and revenue

By John Lindt  Sierra2theSea News Service

VISALIA – A new QK Inc. consultant report requested by Kaweah Delta Healthcare district says some 48% of the hospital’s patients live outside the district and are not “sharing in the costs of building and operating the hospital.” The hospital’s board is looking to broaden that burden by expanding the district boundaries from the Visalia area both north and east ,although the idea is still in the preliminary stages.

This is happening as Kaweah Delta moves closer to a new bond vote campaign to raise money for much needed new facilities, some of which require a seismic upgrade. The board and staff is well aware that a major concern of voters in the last bond vote that was rejected by the by some 57% of those who cast a ballot in 2016, was that there was a “perceived inequity” when so many non-Visalia residents used the hospital but did not help pay for it.

There are seven other hospital districts at least partially within Tulare County besides Kaweah Delta. Three of them, Alta Hospital District, Exeter District Ambulance and Lindsay Local Hospital District do not operate a hospital any more. There are only two district hospitals – Kaweah Delta and Sierra View. The former Tulare District Hospital is being operated by nonprofit Adventist Health Care. The North Kern/South Tulare Health Care District and Kingsburg Tri-County Healthcare District are mostly in other counties.

According to the study presented to the board June 3 there are ways to expand the district.

Some boundary changes could be accomplished by a simple vote of the board in existing districts. In the Alta Hospital District area, and in the Exeter District Ambulance and Lindsay Hospital District areas, amalgamation could be achieved by action of the district boards, merging the districts through a process called district consolidation. In other areas – Woodlake, for example, where Kaweah Delta also operates a rural health clinic – other forms of boundaries change such as annexation are legally feasible they expect.

This study documents and evaluates the costs and benefits provided by Kaweah Delta’s core hospital services to both the citizens within the district and the region, and the costs and benefits of the Kaweah Delta medical facilities located in four out-of-district, bordering, communities – Dinuba, Exeter, Lindsay and Woodlake. It then describes the legal feasibility, and the processes, by which Kaweah Delta’s out-of-District service area citizens could participate in District governance and operations.

The total assessed valuation for all the QK study areas is $19.4 billion. The Kaweah Delta district has approximately 68% ($13.2 billion) of the total valuation, five times as much assessed valuation as the next largest study area, Alta Hospital District ($2.6 billion).

Should Kaweah Delta Health Care District, for example, consolidate with Alta Hospital District, the combined assessed value of the two districts would create a 20.1% increase in total assessed value.

The corresponding rate reductions enabling the same bond repayments of $50 million, $75 million or $100 million bonds would be in the order of a 20% reduction in Kaweah Delta costs. There are multiple alternative scenarios in the event the district were to consolidate or annex other districts or areas.

“Although there are a number of alternative consolidation/annexation combinations, an example of cost reduction would be the consolidation or annexation of all the study areas. The total assessed value base for bond repayment by all study areas would be $19.4 billion; the resulting rate reductions would be in the order of 32% of Kaweah Delta costs” says the study.

One example would be in the case for $100 million bond issue, existing Kaweah Delta district home owners would pay $83 per $100,000 of assessed value. But with consolidation Kaweah Delta’s Visalia homeowners would pay less – $56.43 per $100,000 as the bond costs are spread over a larger number parcels.

If enough parcel owners in one of the proposed consolidating districts did not want to become part of Kaweah Delta district, consolidation with that area would fail. The protests would be tallied by the Tulare County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo).

Following an in-depth review and discussion of the report presented, the board agreed that the information will be shared with the various Community Advisory Committee and Ambassador groups entertaining discussions relative to the pros and cons of potential district mergers.

– John Lindt is the publisher of Sierra2theSea.net, an online newspaper covering California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.

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