Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008 | 12:29 a.m.
Question on the Street
Boulder City Hospital's plea for a property tax failed Tuesday, gaining only 39 percent of the vote.
There were 3,177 votes for the tax, and 4,977 against it.
Officials and the Board of Trustees for the independent nonprofit had asked voters to tax themselves 10 cents for every $100 assessed property value. The request met staunch criticism in August and October town hall meetings.
The hospital has lost $500,000 annually in its operating budget since 2000 and forecasts a negative cash flow by 2012 without intervention, officials said. The estimated $750,000 the tax would bring in annually would keep the facility running, officials said.
A campaign to convince residents it was their responsibility to pay for the luxury having a small hospital, which was established when the town was built, did not resonate with the majority of voters.
Three other local ballot questions passed: the advisory question allowing the city sell industrial land to pay for the third pipeline into Lake Mead and two City Charter changes.
The city may, but is not required, to sell 46 acres of commercial lots in the industrial area west of Yucca Street to help fund its share of the Southern Nevada Water Authority intake valve, which is expected to be $200,000 over the next two years.
Voters last year approved using money from the Capital Improvement Fund for the intake, but rejected sale of residential land to pay for it. Redevelopment money also is being used to pay for the intake valve.
The city has not estimated how much money the sales would bring. Two independent appraisals would be done on the land before it would be sold, city officials said.
Voters approved making the charter "gender neutral," including feminine terms with all masculine terms. The measure will need voter approval again next June to take effect.
The other change brings the charter in line with state law, which requires the city hold open meetings to discuss termination of public officials. That question also needs another pass before being enacted.
The hospital question started the night at a deficit, with about 60 percent of voters against the measure. It stayed behind by a similar percentage all night.
Thomas Maher, the hospital's chief executive officer, said at 10 p.m., before Boulder City precincts had been counted, that he did not plan to wait up to see the results.
William Moore, president of the hospital's board of trustees, said the question came to residents at the wrong time.
"While I, and those of us that have been working on it, feel we need it and we need it now, we are the masters of absolute terrible timing," he said. "With the economy the way it is, who would have predicted that it would be a positive vote on raising taxes? We're just victims of very poor timing."
Moore said the hospital would put the question on the ballot again in two years. He predicted that with more advertising next time, the measure would pass.
The hospital will not close and will try not to cut services, even without the tax, he said.
"In the meantime, we are trying to provide maybe even more services to the community and letting the community know that we're here and what we have and what we're capable of providing to the community."
Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.