Passing the budget each year for the Macon-Bibb County government is an arduous task. Prior to now, we’ve cut the budget 20 percent in three years, less than the five years required by the new charter of our new government. We’ve cut employees from 2,050 to 1,750. We’ve consolidated all departments to become a more efficient government.
And while we pat ourselves on the back, we must realize that it is a double-edged sword; that is, we now have departments that are understaffed, so much so that we do not give the great service the public deserves. All of these vital departments are understaffed and in critical need of more workers. The new budget calls for a total of 14 new hires, but that is far from adequate. All of this caused me to scrutinize the budget for unnecessary expenses.
So I question the $451,600 given to Navicent Health for indigent care. Some have said, how can you be against indigent care? That’s a false premise. The question is: who has the responsibility for indigent care. I would say the hospitals do.
First, let me say that we are blessed to have two of the most highly-rated hospitals in the state of Georgia right here in Macon in HCA Health System and Navicent Health. It seems obvious that both are committed to the care and improvement of human life in Macon-Bibb County.
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Let’s compare the two hospitals as it relates to indigent care and taxes paid to Macon-Bibb. First, let’s look at HCA Health System consisting of two hospitals. According to HCA, their cost of indigent care for 2016 was $17 million dollars. HCA owns 16 pieces of property and according to the Macon-Bibb Tax Assessors Office, these 16 pieces of property are valued at $63, 881,180. HCA paid $884,356 in taxes for said property in 2016. There were no dollars given to HCA for indigent care.
Second, let’s look at Navicent Health. According to Navicent Health, its cost of indigent care for 2016 was $15 million dollars. Again in the new budget, the taxpayers are giving $451,600 to Navicent Health for indigent care. So, the question is: should this be the responsibility of our taxpayers?
According to the Macon-Bibb Tax Assessors Office, Navicent Health owns 69 pieces of property valued at $270,400,877 and all said properties are tax exempt. At the current rate, Navicent should owe $1.6 million dollars in taxes for these properties.
Navicent Health has retained Tyler and Company on several occasions usually related to hiring. From its data, Tyler and Company reports the following about Navicent Health.
Navicent Health has 400 days cash on hand. Their system’s net revenue is approximately $800 million. Operating margin from operations is 7 percent. Navicent Health officers are paid very well, as they should be. In 2016, according to Navicent Health, the president and chief executive officer had total compensation of $1.4 million.
According to Navicent Health, the executive vice president and chief operating officer had total compensation of $1.3 million in 2016. Obviously Navicent is a very profitable company.
So, all of this begs the question: Is it fair to compensate one hospital for indigent care and not the other. I believe that indigent care is the responsibility of the hospital; that is, it’s the cost of doing business.
To be fair, if we give one hospital, namely Navicent Health $450,000 for indigent care, then we should give both hospitals the same amount for indigent care. Should we decide to do that, then Navicent Health should pay their fair share in taxes. Those properties valued at $270 million dollars should be taxed, just like all the other companies in Macon-Bibb. With this same $450,000, we could hire nine additional full time employees with benefits to provide better services for our citizens.
In conclusion, we owe our citizens the best value that we can give them for their hard earned tax dollars. In my opinion, we missed that opportunity this year.
Mallory C. Jones, III, is District 4 commissioner for Macon-Bibb County.