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TAUT Kick-Off Campaign: Detachment From Palm Drive Health Care District


TAUT Kick-Off Campaign:
Detachment From Palm Drive Health Care District

You may have heard by now that a Notice Of Intent To Circulate A Petition has been filed and approved by Sonoma County LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission). Lead advocates are Margaret Benelli of Guerneville and Gary & Carolyn Harris of Forestville.  

The purpose is to validate detachment from the Palm Drive Health Care District (PDHC) due to a changed landscape for the provision of health care services in the Russian River Corridor. The worthy objective of taxpayers and citizens 16 years ago has dramatically changed amid the repeated fiscal chaos of the District.  The areas defined by the Guerneville, Monte Rio and Forestville Unified School Districts are proposed as the detachment area.

By going directly to the voters, the petition seeks to establish a public mandate to generate a special election of these three communities only within the district. A voting declaration would be "for or against" detachment.

Residents in the Russian River Corridor believe that the District has failed to provide medical services to their communities and asserts that, with the opening of the new Sutter Hospital, the District cannot reasonably justify that the Palm Drive Health Care District’s newly converted private hospital will provide emergency service for our area.

The new Sutter Hospital is a straight shot down River Road (15.5 miles) thereby changing the sphere of influence of the Palm Drive Health Care District.  Kaiser Permanente has a large membership in the West County and just 2.4 miles further than Sutter. Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital is the recognized trauma center for Sonoma County. The hospital in Sebastopol is 16.4 miles traveling via River Road/Mirabel Road with 10 stoplights, one stop sign, lower speed limits and a highly congested downtown corridor.

TAUT (Taxpayers Against Unfair Taxes), along with other concerned citizens, has joined together to bring attention to the PDHC District’s attempt to convert a small public hospital, located in Sebastopol, into a privately managed and operated facility using public taxpayer funds.

The PDHC District is currently in bankruptcy (for the second time in 7 years) with debts of almost $10 million and no sound fiscal remedy on the horizon. The Health Care District is depending on our taxpayer dollars to pay down this bankruptcy debt.

The PDHC District Board of Directors, without voter approval, has obligated the property owners of the proposed detachment area to their portion of over $22 million of bond obligations. Most recently, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services withdrew its’ BB long term rating of Palm Drive Health Care District. The District was warned on July 31, 2015 that they had not met their reporting requirements and by default their rating was pulled on August 13, 2015. This costs the taxpayers more money. 

The PDHC District has received over $23 million in overall parcel tax revenue to date from the defined detachment area. There is nothing to prevent the District from creating further bond obligation increases or finding other binding methods to increase the amount of money that we pay. Parcel owners within the proposed detachment area observe losses year after year. In fact, the PDHC District has operated at a deficit averaging $4.5 million per year with a total overall deficit of $63 million. Their recent financial analysis states that they will have upwards of an $870,000 first year loss. That is why our parcel tax money is so important to them.

A proposal to fund the new hospital with private donations of $1million to $2 million annually by their foundation has been described as "challenging" by their own people and is not sustainable. The result is that our parcel tax dollars will continue to be used to subsidize their private hospital. 

This is a hospital in Sebastopol with a majority of supporters that live in Sebastopol and want the convenience of a hospital in their backyard. After the hospital was closed in April of 2014 the Health Care District held community listening sessions in Guerneville and it was well documented that Forestville, Guerneville and Monte Rio residents, over the last 15 years, had received little benefit and no outreach from the PDHC District.

The petition signers will be the registered voters of the Monte Rio, Guerneville and Forestville school districts only. Left out of the petition process are those non-resident owners of Russian River parcels of both vacant land and residences who occupy on a seasonal basis only. However, we are working on a plan to include their number within our presentation to LAFCO. We intend to get these owners, who pay the $155 parcel tax, the recognition they deserve.

Our group has been attending regular District Board meetings. There are now four different Boards that we are keeping track of:  1)The District Board, 2) the Governing Board, 3)the new private Hospital Board and 4)the Foundation Board.  After closure of the hospital, we banded together supporting one another, asking hard questions of these Board members only to be marginalized and ignored.  We are the public who pay for this Health Care District and we are concerned that our good money is going after bad.  Our numbers are growing every day.  Please join us in this effort.

Please watch for our website at: This article has been written by the advocates for Taxpayers Against Unfair Taxes.