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January 30, 2013

Commissioner wants to repurpose hospital tax

GREENVILLE — Precinct 2 Hunt County Commissioner Jay Atkins said he has always been a proponent of lowering taxes.

The Hunt Regional Healthcare Center in Greenville has been a tax-supported hospital since Greenville citizens voted to support it in May of 1967. Atkins said he wants to change that.

“I want to have a county-wide referendum to stop the taxing authority of the hospital,” he said.

Atkins warned the crowd gathered at the Caddo Mills Office/Barn on Jan. 26 that their taxes could see an increase.

“If we don’t make some serious changes soon, my personal belief is that your hospital taxes will exceed your county taxes in 10 years,” he said.

According to Atkins, the taxes paid to the hospital by the county equals approximately $12 million a year. Atkins said he has a plan to use that tax money differently.

“Over a five-year period, every single road in this county can be paved,” he said.

Atkins said the hospital currently operates on a $215 million annual budget, and added that the hospital would still be able to operate with that budget cut.

“It would take a lot of incompetence for that hospital to close,” he said. “Baylor hospital had expressed interest in buying the hospital a few years ago. I would like to see Baylor’s name on our hospital.”

Atkins said that along with the extra income from removing the hospital tax, a County Road Unit System would help keep county roads maintained.

“Under the unit system, all of the county roads would be under one engineer,” he said. “The engineer would be in charge.”

Currently, the county commissioners are responsible for maintaining the county’s roads.

The County Road Unit System puts the maintenance of county roads into a single county road department, which is controlled by the county road engineer or administrator for the entire county, regardless of precincts.

The 2010 census figures show four of the top 10 fastest counties in Texas surround the Metroplex, including neighboring Rockwall County.

According to Atkins, that influx is headed in the county’s direction and planning needs to be done to support that growth.

“This county is going to grow,” he said. “If you think the county roads are horrible right now, wait until you put 20,000 more people on them.”

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