Health district adopts initial budget for 2018

An initial budget for the remainder of 2018 has been set by the Orcas Island Health Care District.

During its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 5, the board of commissioners voted to adopt the budget in order to request a loan from the county.

“We’ve come to the realization that this is going to be a multi-step process,” said Patty Miller, commission secretary and member of the finance subcommittee. “In order for the county to extend a loan to us, we have to have a budget, we have to have a levy, we have to have a revenue source sufficient to pay back that budget.”

Included in the fiscal document is an estimated price of replacing the deteriorating X-ray machine at UW Medicine Orcas Island Clinic; salary and benefits compensation for a part-time superintendent; office and operating expenses; and other necessary costs such as insurance fees, website dues and legal services. The commissioners opted out of receiving $90 per meeting stipend as defined by the RCW, removing a total of $15,504 from the calculation. Lopez also opted out of its commissioner compensation during its first year.

“It’s important [to remember] this is a planning document. This is not a commitment to purchase an X-ray machine or any of the other things,” said Commission President Richard Fralick. “This is just a framework as to what it might look like.”

With the initially estimated expenses for the remainder of 2018 totaling $356,925, the commission voted to approve the budget so that it can request a $400,000 loan to operate through the rest of the year. The loan from the county would be disbursed in two separate installments of $200,000 with the second half being paid after the commission sets a preliminary levy rate.

“The county’s asking for a levy submission to repay the loan plus cover other operating costs,” Miller said.

The preliminary budget needs to be established for the district to be granted a loan from the county. The levy is subject to change and must be decided upon by November when the commission is expected to request the amount from the assessor. The district will not begin collecting levy funds until April 2019. Lopez signed a resolution on June 1, 2017, setting its tax levy rate at 75 cents per thousand, the maximum for a hospital district.

A public hearing for setting a preliminary levy rate, which can be adjusted at a later date if commissioners deem it necessary, will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 21 at the Eastsound Fire Station. Commissioner Diane Boteler will be off island the day of the hearing but will be able via conference call. The commission scheduled the hearing prior to the San Juan County Council meeting set for Tuesday, June 26, wherein it can determine whether it will provide the loan to OIHCD. It also set a workshop for 3–7 p.m. on Monday, June 11 at the Eastsound Fire Station to discuss levy rates and fund recipients. In addition to that session, it increased its regularly 4–6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, June 12 at the Eastsound Fire Station, by one hour – the meeting will conclude at 7 p.m.

“It’s hard for me to believe that this is a month that we’ve been doing this. It feels like three years!” Fralick said with a laugh. “It has been the proverbial drinking from the firehose and I’m not sure who’s winning yet but we’re going to keep trying.”