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Hospital, county to attempt to resolve pay disagreement
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With the Department of Housing and Urban Development scheduled to visit in a few weeks, Effingham Health System leaders want to resolve an issue on how much money the hospital is owed from the county.

County commissioners discussed a letter Hospital Authority Chairman Rick Rafter sent to the county, advising the county has not lived up to its end in the pact that led to the hospital securing $30 million in financing for its expansion and modernization.

“We are still working on pulling all the numbers,” interim county administrator Toss Allen said.

Rafter said the letter was not sent in an adversarial tone, and he informed commissioners that HUD representatives will be at the hospital Sept. 19 to see if the agreement between the county and hospital is being followed.

According to the hospital, the county is short more than $1 million in its payments. The 2010 agreement calls for the county to provide the hospital with either at least $3.6 million each year or at most 2 mills in property tax.

But county officials don’t believe that is necessarily the case. County finance director Joanna Wright said they went through this process one other time, and she said the hospital’s auditing statements showed one figure but the county was receiving a different number.

“Not all of their general ledgers showed every dollar received from property taxes,” she said.

Wright said they have requested information from the tax commissioner’s office and general ledger details from the hospital. She also said the hospital gets property tax money through forestland protection, motor vehicles and also from the payments in lieu of taxes.

She said requesting the general ledger details should isolate those details.

“They get it from five or six different areas,” she said. “Our contract as I understand it calls for $300,000 a month and some of this may be the timing which they are recording this.”

According to figures Rafter sent to the county, the hospital received just less than $3.1 million in 2013, $3.4 million in 2012 and $3.3 million in 2011. The total is $10.4 million to date, including the current year, and the hospital was scheduled to receive $10.8 million from 2011-13.

“It will be interesting to see from the tax commissioner what they originally sent them,” added Chairman Wendall Kessler.