By Wyatt Goolsby
FORT STOCKTON - It's the talk of the town and now voters are weighing in: Should taxpayers in Fort Stockton shell out more cash for a new hospital district? Hospital officials say with expanding healthcare costs, they need help from taxpayers. However, not everyone agrees.
"I don't know. If the county cannot fund us where we need to be funded, how do you provide services that don't fund themselves?" Pecos County Memorial Hosptial CEO Russell Tippin asked on Wednesday.
In just three days, more than 200 Pecos County residents voted early for the April 4th election. On the ballot: Making the Pecos County Hospital a taxable hospital district.
"Nobody wants higher taxes, and nobody wants to pay more," Tippin said. "Unfortunately, the state that healthcare in the United States is in, we are at a point that the local taxpayer has to say, is it worth a few cents more a day to have quality healthcare in Fort Stockton?"
Tippin said that's about 15 cents a day for the average homeowner. A cost he said will go to help pay off debt.
"I'm against the hospital district, and there's a number of reasons," Darren Hodges, with the local Hodges Oil Company and Chairman of the County Appraisal Board told NewsWest 9 on Wednesday.
Both Darren and Delmon Hodges say the issue is not that black and white. With no hospital tax rate set in stone, Hodges said there's no telling how much taxpayers will ultimately shell out.
"It's an extra burden on everybody," Hodges said. "Businesses, oil companies, mineral owners, everyone gets taxed."
Hodges said the current hospital is great, and doesn't see a reason for the structure to change.
"So far the improvements have come every year, and I haven't seen anything negative," Hodges explained. "I think it's just a scare tactic. I don't think the hospital is going to deteroriate."
"We're trying to make sure that people have accurate information," Tippin said. "We're not trying to use scare tactics, we don't want to scare anybody into voting. We're not asking for millions and millions of dollars. We're saying lets pay our debt down, let's lower the tax rate, let's get good equipment and high quality staff in this building, so we can take care of you here."
Both sides tell NewsWest 9, they hope Pecos County residents will educate themselves on the issue before they vote. Early voting continues this week, and ends next Tuesday.
Election day is April 4th.