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August 27, 2014

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Local Government:

UMC issues, Rio’s twist on zip line on tap for county commission discussions

University Medical Center’s uncertain future will be at the center of this week’s Clark County Commission meeting, when commissioners discuss raising property taxes to help shore up the hospital’s finances. Commissioners will also discuss giving more autonomy to the hospital’s CEO when they meet at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at the commission chambers.

Tax hike for hospital?

The county will subsidize UMC to the tune of $30 million dollars next year to help close the hospital’s budget gap, despite running a deficit of its own.

UMC’s bleak financials, which are largely due to its role as a public hospital that serves a large number of uninsured, only look to get worse in future years as the federal Affordable Care Act puts unique pressures on its operations and budget.

Commissioners have few viable options to turn UMC around, and they’ll discuss one of the least popular — a property tax hike — on Tuesday.

The county currently assesses a rate of 44.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which is in addition to property taxes levied by several other entities. The county has the authority to raise its rate by 25 cents, but according to a staff report, the amount of revenue returned would drop off steeply on any increase greater than 10 cents.

The county estimates that each one-cent increase in the tax rate generates about $5.1 million annually.

Several commissioners argue a property tax hike of a few cents is the most direct way to stabilize UMC, but they’ll likely meet skepticism from residents and some of their fellow board members.

UMC chain of command

Commissioners will discuss giving UMC CEO Brian Brannman a bit more autonomy and a direct line of reporting to the board in hopes of streamlining communications and improving operations at the hospital.

The oversight structure of UMC has changed multiple times through the years, but it currently requires Brannman to report to County Manager Don Burnette, who then reports to the commission.

If commissioners approve the change, Brannman would be moved out from under the oversight of the county manager’s office and given a direct line to commissioners.

A new twist on the zip line

Various proposals for zip-line rides on the Strip, such as one between the Luxor and the Excalibur, have been floated in years past but have yet to come to fruition.

It appears the Rio will be joining the thrill-ride bandwagon with its proposal for the Soaring Eagle, a zip line-type ride that starts on the 50th floor of the hotel’s VooDoo Lounge Deck and sends riders shooting at up to 33 mph to a hotel tower 726 feet away.

The twist is instead of hanging freely from the line like traditional zip-lines, riders at the Rio would make the trip fastened into a seat.

Commissioners will review initial designs for the project at their Wednesday Zoning Commission meeting, but the project likely won’t come to fruition for several months or even years because it will require special approval from the Federal Aviation Administration due to its height.

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