Hospital parcel tax fails; emergency meeting called for Thursday

Sonoma Valley Health Care District failed in its March 7 election bid renew the current parcel tax for another five years while increasing it by $55, or about 28 percent. But the board will be meeting in an emergency session at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 9, to vote on placing the measure on the ballot in the June election.

Measure B received 4,954 “yes” votes and 2,693 “no” votes – or 64.8 percent of the vote with all 45 precincts reporting. The measure needed 66.6 percent to pass.

Currently, residents in the health care district are paying a $195 a year parcel tax which raises $3 million annually for the hospital. The additional $55 a year would raise an additional $850,000 a year – or a total of $3.85 million a year for the next five years.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board will consider whether to bring the five-year, $250 parcel tax back to voters on June 6. Measures for the June ballot have to be at the county by Friday, March 10.

The board had an emergency meeting Wednesday morning, but it needed a 24-hour notice to call an emergency meeting so it re-set the meeting for Thursday.

“We had about the same number of ‘no’ votes as we did last time, but not as many ‘yes’ votes” said hospital CEO Kelly Mather. “We owe it to the voters to give them another chance to say ‘yes.’”

“Without a parcel tax, we won’t have a hospital,” she added.

Boardmember Bill Boerum said he wasn’t surprised by the defeat.

“Last night’s preliminary vote tally with Measure B failing to achieve 66.67 percent for approval, came as no surprise to me. It is a clear signal that a large segment of voters – despite improvements in quality and community engagement by the hospital - were tired of supporting an enterprise which consistently loses money, month after month, year after year. Their patience for an improvement in financial management ran out. Through seven months of this fiscal year, there was a $3 million operating loss,” he said.

“There was no organized opposition and no opposing ballot statement, yet the Measure failed to get the required two-thirds vote, and lost with a ‘yes’ percentage well below the last three parcel tax elections,” he added.

Boerum said he’s not in favor of putting the measure on the June ballot.

“At this point pending any further discussion or information from the board chair and the CEO, I am leaning against a re-vote so soon. This is not a messaging issue,” he said.

The current parcel tax expires on June 30 of this year.

The Thursday, March 9, meeting is open to the public and will take place in Sonoma Valley Hospital’s administration conference room, 347 Andrieux St., Sonoma.