Greene County hospital board and staff ask commission for 3 mil tax for local health services

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, five members of the board of the Greene County Health System (GCHS) led by Chairperson, John Zippert and Eddie Austin, Lucy Spann, Pennia Hines and Margarite Bir, as well as several GCHS senior staff, attended the Commission Work-session at which items are discussed before being placed on the Commission’s regular meeting agenda.
The GCHS delegation asked the Commission to approve a three (3) mil increase in the Greene County ad valorem property tax for the benefit of the Hospital, Nursing Home and Physicians Clinic. Zippert explained that this increase would yield $500,000 in new revenues to support the work of the hospital in covering its financial deficit for providing an average of $100,000 per month in ‘uncompensated care’ to Greene County residents who are too poor to afford health care or health insurance.
After approval of the tax increase by the County Commission, the measure would have to be advertised as local legislation for four weeks, then approved by the Legislature, signed by the Governor and placed on the ballot for a vote by the citizens of Greene County in the next General Election (November 2020).
The Commission listened carefully to the proposal and then said that they would not place the request for a tax increase on the main agenda until a more comprehensive proposal could be developed. Commissioner Allen Turner, speaking for the Commission said, “We will not put forth a tax increase for one agency, like the hospital. We want to present a tax increase for the hospital and other needs of recreation for youth, nutrition for senior citizens and general support for the work of the Commission. We feel a single issue tax request will not be approved by the voters of Greene County.”
GCHS Board members expressed some disappointment with the actions of the Commission but said they would monitor the situation and continue to push for needed tax revenues to keep the hospital open and operating without a deficit.

County Commission Meeting

In its monthly meeting held Monday, March 12, 2019, the County Commission approved hiring an employee for the County’s Probate Office. The individual was recommended by the county’s newly elected Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth. The commission took action on the following:

  • Approved parking lot stripes at the courthouse, highway department, activity center and library.
  • Approved re-appointment of Debbie Duncan to Industrial Development Authority.
  • Approved travel to various conferences for the county engineer, assistant engineer, human resource coordinator and coroner.
  • Approved financial report, payment of claims and budget amendments.
    The commission declined to hire a bus drive for the Eutaw Nutrition Site.
    The meeting was adjourned following an executive session and public comments.

Sheriff Joe Benison meets with Hospital Board to discuss bingo funds

Sheriff- Hostil

L to R: GCHS Board members: Margaret Bir, Sheriff Benison, Lucy Spann, Elmore Patterson, Jasmine Smith, Pinnia Hines, Shirley Edwards and Rosemary Edwards. Not shown are Eddie Austin and John Zippert who also attended the meeting.

Greene County Sheriff Jonathan “Joe” Benison, together with his executive assistant and bingo clerks, met with the Greene County Health System (GCHS) Board of Directors as part of their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss with the Board their concerns over the status of payments from electronic bingo parlors to the GCHS, which operates the hospital, nursing home, physicians clinic and home health services.
On June 2, 2016, Sheriff Benison adopted a new rule for bingo which stipulated that the Greene County Hospital was to receive a fee of 4% of the amount paid to vendors, who provide bingo machines, to be paid to the hospital for providing health care services to the residents of Greene County.

The Sheriff adopted this rule change as a way to share some of the revenues generated by electronic bingo, under Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, with the Greene County Health Care System.
Based upon estimates from the bingo clerks, Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System projected receiving $3,500 per month from each of the four operating bingo parlors as of June 2016. This would total $14,000 per month or $168,000 per year.

The GCHS Board informed the Sheriff that since adoption of the rule in June 2016, the health facilities have not received these 4% fees from the vendors. The GCHS has received an average of $5,133 per month for the hospital and $ 1,104 per month for the residential care center (nursing home). These averages include a one-time payment of $30,000 from Greenetrack and smaller donations as a sub-charity from all of the bingo operation. The Anchor Group, the charity operating the River’s Edge Bingo facility is the only operation that has been paying the 4% vendors fee under the Sheriff’s rules.
Sheriff Benison said that he understood the Greene County Health System’s concerns with the shortfall in the 4% vendors fee.
He said that he wanted to discuss this with the bingo operators, including the Palace Bingo, a new electronic bingo hall at the Knoxville Exit on Interstate 20/59. He said that after he consults with the bingo operators that he and his clerks would report back to the GCHS Board of Directors.
Elmore Patterson thanked the Sheriff for attending the meeting and said, “Health care is critical to Greene County. The GCHS is providing quality health care to residents of Greene County and surrounding areas. I just reported to the Board that we had an overall operating loss of $538,000 for the first six months of this fiscal year, which began October 1, 2016. This loss matches the half a million dollars of uncompensated care that the GCHS provided to Greene County citizens, during the same time period, with limited incomes who lack insurance or other health care payers. We are looking to electronic bingo, the county government and others sources to help us cover our deficit which basically comes from serving the people of our county who are poor and not covered by any health insurance.”
All of the GCHS Board members also thanked the Sheriff for coming and listening to the concerns of the community. The members said they hoped to hear some positive response from the bingo establishments and the Sheriff in the coming weeks.