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Hospital's millage questioned
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Effingham County commissioners approved a millage rate for the coming fiscal year, but not without some more hand-wringing.

Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, approved a millage rate that rolls back their expected levy, and they also wondered what to do with the hospital authority’s millage.

Commissioner Hubert Sapp continued to question the hospital authority’s request for 2 mills. But three public hearings already conducted on the hospital authority, and the digest has to be sent to the state Department of Revenue by Aug. 4.

“We need to do that early in the process or in January,” Chairwoman Verna Phillips said. “We can’t do it the day you have to start the millage rate. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, but you don’t do it today, unless you want to start the process over.”

The millage rate for the unincorporated county will be 8.913. The Effingham Industrial Development Authority levies 2 mills, a rate mandated by a court order.

The county can address its millage rate only if the county believes the hospital can operate in a more efficient manner, according to County Administrator Ed Williams. He added hospital officials said they have always asked for 2 mills.

Hospital authority chairman Stephen Mobley said he did not want to ask for the full 2 mills.

“I’m still very much trying to roll it back to 1.827 mills,” he said. “The only thing I can do is to try to convince them otherwise.”

The hospital authority uses a large portion of its property tax proceeds to cover indigent care costs.

Sapp said the hospital also lowered its bond rate, thereby cutting its expenditures, and also took issue with the hospital’s decision not to roll back its millage and the sales tax money it is getting.

“Not only are they getting a millage rate increase,” he said, “but they are getting $1 million in sales tax money.”

Sapp and Reggie Loper voted against the millages as proposed.

Commissioners rolling back the hospital’s millage on their own accord could lead to a lawsuit, Williams cautioned

Phillips suggested the commissioners meet with hospital authority members and officials to find ways at reducing its millage.