Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grand jury: Sequoia Healthcare District should decline property taxes

June 30, 2009, Daily Journal Staff Report

The Sequoia Healthcare District should decline some or all of its share of the general tax, reducing the rate for property owners whose funds are used for philanthropic purposes, according to a civil grand jury report released yesterday.

The Board of Directors is allowed to pass on the tax on a one-year basis and should consider that in years with a healthy operating surplus, the jury recommended.

The hospital district was formed in 1946 to build and operate Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. Since 1996, nonprofit Sequoia Health Services — a joint effort of the district and Catholic Healthcare West — took over with each entity appointing five members. After 96 percent of hospital assets were transferred to SHS in 1996, the health care district continued collecting the tax which it funnels into public and nonprofit programs like children’s health care.

SHD revenue totals approximately $6.8 million annually. Taxation code allows the board to decline some of the tax on a one-year basis and doing so would lower each property’s taxes accordingly, the jury report states.

The jury’s new findings were an update to a 2004-05 investigation of whether the district still represents its health care interests. That jury recommended the district develop and implement a 10-year working investment plan to manage its financial reserves. The plan has since been replaced by a strategic plan establishing a sense of direction with priorities, goals and strategies.

The jury found the district continues its health care goals but provides “minimal communication” about services to residents. The district should consider an annual mailer guiding residents to its Web site and grant applications.

The district should also work with other health care systems in the county to decrease health care costs and become more efficient, the report stated.

Civil grand jury reports carry no legal weight but recipients must respond in writing within 90 days.


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