Morrow County Hospital board withdraws levy request


By Alberta Stojkovic - The Sentinel



MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County Commissioners extended an invitation to the Morrow County Hospital Board to send a representative and Hospital CEO Chad Miller to the Monday, July 20 commissioners meeting.

The purpose stated was to discuss the hospital’s request for a 5-year, 2.5 mill renewal levy, which is expiring.

No representative of the hospital attended the meeting. The board sent a resolution withdrawing their request for the levy.

Commissioner Burgess Castle said that the hospital board has not attended the usual quarterly meeting with commissioners for more than a year. He added that agencies that ask for a levy always come to give a financial picture to the commissioners, who have the final authority as to whether a levy goes on the ballot.

Commissioners asked the hospital board to answer several questions pertaining to the hospital’s financial situation, or give written replies if they preferred. Questions concerned purchasing, borrowing and investment requirements, having the state do an audit, management costs of OhioHealth, CEO Chad Miller’s salary and why there is a need for a levy with no debt and showing a $10 million reserve.

Hospital meeting, statement

The Hospital board met in a virtual meeting that was open to the public Friday July 17.

Brad Wood read a resolution from the board that requested “that the February 25, 2020 resolution requesting that a renewal levy be placed on the November 2020 ballot is hereby withdrawn and nullified; and further resolved that a renewal levy not be placed on any ballot in 2020…”

In a hospital board statement that followed the board’s action Jill Fazekas, Communications and Media Relations Manager for OhioHealth, listed the reasons it is “not appropriate to put the levy before our citizens at this time.”

“With the current COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertain financial climate in which we find ourselves, the Trustees of the Morrow County Hospital have passed a resolution reversing our original request and are now asking the Commissioners to not place the renewal levy on the ballot this November.

“Many of our citizens who have supported the hospital with their vote over the years are now finding themselves in financial uncertainty. The Board felt that it was not appropriate to put the levy before our citizens at this time. The Hospital is faced with decreased volumes and lower revenue just like any other business as a result of COVID-19.

“However, by working to manage our expenses, by applying and receiving some federal stimulus money, and with the able management from OhioHealth, we have been able to keep the doors open and our employees financially whole, as we continue to serve the citizens of Morrow County.

“Recently the Morrow County Commissioners issued a news release and listed a number of pointed questions for the Board of Trustees. The Board has spent considerable time answering many of these and other questions in the past and we will continue to respond to new questions and requests.

“Rather than fight a war of words in the media our priorities have been and will continue to be, to focus on providing safe and accessible healthcare to the citizens of Morrow County. We ask for your continued support of the hospital as we navigate these challenging times together.”

Commissioners’ response

At the Monday meeting July 20, commissioners Tom Whiston and Castle voted to follow the recommendation of the Hospital board to withdraw the request for a levy. Warren Davis dissented, saying that he has some concern that, without the levy, the hospital is at risk of closing.

Commissioners discussed that the county is able to support the levy financially. Morrow County Treasurer Mike Goff confirmed that the county is “holding our own through tough times.”

“I’m pleasantly pleased that property tax collections are increased over last year by $1 million and sales tax is one or more percent ahead of last year,” Goff said.

Whiston said, “We have to ask what precipitated their taking the levy off when up until now they said they needed it. What changed is that we asked these questions on finance just last Tuesday and by Friday they had this resolution to withdraw the levy.”

“Everybody and every agency that has put on a levy came to explain their need and give documentation,” Castle said. “I can only think they have something to hide since they haven’t attended.”

Castle noted that a request for financial information is not new. He gave the example of the Whetstone Developmental Disabilities levy that will be on the November ballot. Both the director and fiscal officer met with commissioners to explain the finances and answer questions. This is also true of the EMS levy and past hospital levy renewals.

“Without direct communications, it’s not possible to have the information to determine what is best for the county,” Castle added. “When we put a levy on the ballot, the commissioners want to understand the need for it and be able to support it.”

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel