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Posted on Nov 6, 2014

QVMC levy failing, county raises loan cap

With the hospital levy garnering less than 50 percent of the vote on Wednesday, it appears voters shot down a $2.2 million levy that supporters say would have helped get the struggling hospital back on its financial feet.

The maintenance and operations levy needs to pass by at least 60 percent.

What the split vote did show is that hospital district voters are clearly divided on the future of Quincy Valley Medical Center. On Thursday morning, there were 1,174 yes votes to 1,196 no votes, or 49.54 percent to 50.46 percent.

An estimated 500 votes are left to count. The Grant County elections department will count more ballots at 5 p.m. Nov. 6.

A $2.2 million hospital levy is failing at this time. The levy needed at least a 60 percent majority to pass; however, it is garnering only 49 percent of the vote.

“The community has spoken,” said Newton Moats, chairman of the levy committee and the hospital’s chief purchasing officer.

Now the hospital needs to pull both sides together to get a conversation going about the future of the hospital in Quincy, Moats said. And how they should get there, he added.

“It’s definitely going to be a community discussion,” Moats said.

The Quincy hospital district was asking voters to pass a $2.2 million, one-year tax maintenance and operations levy to help pay down its nearly $3.4 million operating loan, called registered warrants, from Grant County.

County Treasurer Darryl Pheasant warned the hospital in July that if the hospital failed to put a levy on the ballot, or if the levy failed, he would recommend the county get tough with the hospital come January.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, county commissioners approved a recommendation from the Grant County Finance Committee to set the limit of registered warrants accepted by the county treasurer for the hospital district at $3 million.

“Grant County requests that this balance be brought into compliance by June 1, 2015,” commissioners state in a letter to the hospital’s board of directors. “Should this not occur, any warrants submitted to the county after that date will be returned.”

Commissioner Cindy Carter said the warrant line was raised from $2.5 million so that the county was in compliance with state auditors. It also should relieve some tension as the hospital focuses on an improvement plan, Carter added.

The hospital still has yet to hear from the City of Quincy, which is considering issuing the hospital district $1.5 million in registered warrants to take some of the financial burden off the county. The county earlier this year asked the hospital to make such a request to the city.

On Wednesday, Mayor Jim Hemberry said the city needs to meet with hospital officials to discuss the hospital’s plans moving forward. The earliest the city council would discuss the issue is in December, Hemberry said.

“We will do whatever we can to help out,” Hemberry said.

Hospital officials had hoped that a $2.2 million levy from taxpayers and a $1.5 million loan from the city would put it in better shape to pay down its $3.4 million loan from the county.

The levy’s failure may force the community to look at this issue more closely, Moats said. Levy supporters have talked about the fact that only a handful of people turned out for two levy informational forums held in October, he said. With the levy’s failure, the public needs to join the conversation about the hospital’s future, he said.

“Going forward, it’s going to be critical,” Moats said of the need to hear from the community.