Taxes to Support Southern Humboldt Community Hospital District Dropped for Blocksburg Area Residents After Boundary Changes
The Humboldt Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) held a public hearing on March 21st to consider the proposed detachment of the Blocksburg area from the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District (SHCHD). After a brief assessment of the proposal, Humboldt LAFCo approved the detachment of 524 parcels in the Blocksburg area from the SHCHD.
The area to be annexed from the SHCHD is about 61,650 acres about 10 miles east of Highway 101, and generally coincides with the boundaries of election precincts 2SH-3 and 2SHF3. The area contains scattered rural residential development and a small commercial center within the community of Blocksburg.
Kent Scown, the Chief Operations Officer for the SHCHD, said,
It is very important to note that the proposed detachment was not initiated by the healthcare district, as some have suggested. Rather, the process was initiated by landowners residing within the Blocksburg area who took the time to engage with the healthcare district administration and its board of directors by attending a public meeting on March 28th of 2017. They felt that they, and virtually all members of the Blocksburg community, were being charged a tax for a service they did not utilize, and asked the district board for relief.
In response, the SHCHD did a review of utilization, discussed and considered separating part of the district on the behalf of Blocksburg residents. LAFCo assisted the process of document preparation, analysis, and public noticing requirements. Then, this January 3rd, about 20 residents attended a Blocksburg Town Hall meeting with district board members. No one at the open public meeting voiced opposition to the proposed detachment.
On March 21st, 2018, LAFCO held a public hearing to decide the matter. Chief Operations Officer Scown responded to questions from the Commission. Scown witnessed the Committee assess written comments, as “ No member of the public was present at the hearing….The Commission… after thoughtful discussion and consideration unanimously voted to approve the separation of Blocksburg from the SHCHD.”
According to a staff annexation report explaining the decision, LAFCo intends to “prevent taxing residents for hospital-related services they do not utilize.” The effect of detachment is simple. Parcels annexed from the SHCHD will no longer pay any taxes toward Jerold Phelps Community Hospital and associated services. All of the citizens in the area are still eligible for healthcare, and emergency services will not be affected by these changes. LAFCo Staff repeatedly cites services that will remain despite jurisdictional boundary changes. “The Bridgeville and Alderpoint Volunteer Fire Departments would continue to provide fire protection and emergency response services within the affected territory. Ambulance services would continue to be provided…Services provided by the hospital are fee-for-service based, and are available to all members of the public.”
Several parcel owners within the affected area and a concerned citizen wrote Humboldt LAFCo in response to the proposed changes. Two families supported their parcels’ annexation from the Healthcare District for the same reasons the Humboldt LAFCo made their decision.
One family opposed paying for facilities they do not use or value. Another couple on a fixed income wrote to Humboldt LAFCo, their inclusion “places an undue burden on our finances and is not justified, based on lack of use.” The couple paid taxes for SHCHD since 1989 without using its services.
Confirming the stories of local residents, the Bridgeville Fire Protection District Board President Brian Phillips commented, “a majority of the medical calls we respond to from the Blocksburg area are transported to the Fortuna ER.”
Two local citizens opposed the changes to SHCHD boundaries in suspiction the Healthcare District changes will affect citizens’ voting rights.
One family wrote “SHCHD boundaries have always coincided with those of the school district in order to maintain community cohesion. Rural districts of any kind are often disregarded. We don’t wish to be disenfranchised by our own.” These citizens wondered why other parcels and residents who also use healthcare services in Fortuna, were not also annexed from the SHCHD, and associated the boundary changes with gerrymandering.
According to Merriam-Webster, gerrymandering is “to manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.”
In a different letter, another citizen demanded the resignation of the SHCHD Chief Executive Officer and claims that the parcel annexation will affect Blocksburg residents rights and lead to the annexation of other parcels. The writer highlights how the majority of the Blocksburg area residents voted against last year’s parcel tax increases for the Healthcare District, implying deeper motives.
In response to the accusations of somehow gerrymandering the Blocksburg area, Humboldt Lafco Administrator Collete Metz helped clarify, “the changes do not affect voters rights on the election in June. In the future, these parcels will be removed from the precinct, and…the SHCHD may ask for a renewal or increase in taxes, but…the district will not include the Blocksburg area for future tax measures.” Metz also mentioned, although the SHCHD and Southern Humboldt Unified School District boundaries were created together, they are legally independent of each other. Therefore, the removal or addition of parcels to one of these districts does not affect the membership of the other. Also, residents are still eligible to vote.
The renewal of taxes that fund Jerold Phelps Community Hospital and associated medical services will be decided on the local June 5th ballot. The Humboldt LAFCo‘s reasoning for changing SHCHD’s boundary, and several letters from Blocksburg area citizens, are available to the public at HUMBOLDTLAFCO.ORG