GLEN ROSE – For the five newly elected members of the Somervell County Hospital Board, an expedited learning curve and ability to digest an undetermined number of months worth of uncertainty will be crucial. As Luminant Generation Company, LLC weighs its options to appeal the March 10 decision made by Judge John E. Neill of the 18th District Court of Texas in the favor of the Somervell County Appraisal District.
The court then officially filed the decision, which ordered Luminant to pay the “fair market value” set at $2,221,721,055.00 of the property where Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant sits, on May 4. Luminant has 30 days, or until Friday, June 3, to file an appeal of Neill’s decision.
According to Glen Rose Medical Center CEO Ray Reynolds, the question now on the mind of Glen Rose Medical Center is, “At what point do you have to become a taxpayer?”
“We’ve only been in a hospital district for three years, so we have no reserve funds [built] yet,” Reynolds said. “I think the big thing for us is the unknown on when are going to be paid. […] If you know what to expect then you can plan for it, but we have no idea when we can expect payment.”
According to the budget set by the Somervell County Hospital District for the 2016 fiscal year, the SCHD has factored in $3,211,699 of tax revenue if 99.5 percent of the property taxes within the county are collected. The approximate $3.211 million dollars, of which Luminant accounts for approximately 80 percent or $2.569 million, offsets the $2,214,684 net operating losses and obligations of debt for a $58,453 net income.
In short, the tax revenue is greater than the net operating loss if and only if Luminant pays its end of the deal, according to Reynolds. On the flipside, Luminant is holding true to its belief that the end of the deal it should be paying is not as high as what the court ruled.
“Our goal from the outset has been to determine Comanche Peak’s taxable value for 2015,” Brad Watson, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for Luminant, stated. “We’re committed to pay our fair share and are pursing the process set by state law available to any taxpayer.
“The recent court decision does not reflect the accurate value of Comanche Peak given the market conditions of low wholesale power prices in 2015 that have continued to fall by more than one-third in the past year. We are considering our options, including an appeal.”
The waiting game by the numbers
In blog post published May 28 by Watson on behalf of Luminant, the senior director of communications reiterates that the company stands by its $949 million valuation of Comanche Peak. Watson also states that Luminant has already paid Somervell County upwards of $16 million in taxes for 2105.
“We’re certainly aware of Comanche Peak’s impact on the school and county governments in Somervell County that decided to structure their budgets so that more than 70 percent of their total property tax revenue comes from the plant,” Watson wrote. “During the process to reach a 2015 taxable value for Comanche Peak, those local governments that passed solid prudent budgets with adequate reserves are fully capable of evaluating their options.”
However, with only three years of operating as a district the SCHD is not as established as the County, Glen Rose ISD or Somervell County Water District, according to Reynolds. So with a $315,000 bond payment due in August, Reynolds said he is not exactly sure what the future holds for the staff and services at GRMC.
“Right now if I am being honest, I just do not have the funds to pay [the bond payment],” Reynolds said. “If it was due today I couldn’t make it. […] I hope and expect that Luminant will have made a payment to us by the time the [bond] payment is due.”
The $14 million bond, which was taken in 2008 under the name of Somervell carries a 30-year maturity (2037), was transferred from the county’s budget to the SCHD when the district was created three years ago, according to Somervell County records. The funds were used to renovate the hospital and emergency room, and, according to county documents, 100 percent of the bond was used by the hospital.
“If the failure to pay goes on for an extended period of time, then we will have to significantly reduce the services being provided,” Reynolds said. “We will have to enter into a survival mode.”
According to Reynolds, GRMC has already begun to prepare for the aforementioned survival mode. The GRMC CEO said the hospital has now:
Reduced the salary of administration by 10-20 percent Reduced many employees from 80 hours to 72 hours Cancelled raises that were scheduled for June Cited attrition for the non-replacement of three former employees Discontinued the reimbursement for travel – unless absolutely necessary Discontinued the reimbursement for continued education for GRMC staff “This is all money that is being taken from our employees to pay for the responsibility of Luminant,” Reynolds said.
As for services that are currently being provided by the hospital, Reynolds said those might be reduced to an on-call basis if necessary, but that has yet to be finalized.
A piece of the Pecan pie
For the fiscal year to date, from Oct. 2015 through March 2016, Pecan Family Medical Center – located at the Glen Rose Healthcare, Inc. (GRHI) facility inside the gated community at Pecan Plantation – has profited $78,949, according to Reynolds. During the same time period, Reynolds reported GRMC to be at a loss of $260,591.
“Pecan makes money for us,” Reynolds said. “If it wasn’t for Pecan we would be losing money. It is profitable for us, and, honestly, if it wasn’t for Pecan the tax-rate would be higher.”
There have been questions surrounding the availability of doctors within the 501(a) facility and the access Somervell County or any residents have to PFMC.
One local resident, who wished to remain unidentified, has seen both sides of the issue firsthand. Originally a patient of Dr. Bruce Carpenter since 1986, she was first instructed that she could not see the doctor if she did not live on the premises. A few years later the patient saw Dr. Carpenter at the hospital and he said you could get in if you knew a resident who would call you in.
However, that has changed. Now, five years later, the patient still cannot see Dr. Carpenter because she is considered a new patient and cannot get an appointment.
The source, that is now a patient of Virginia Barrett, a nurse practitioner, stated that as long as you have an appointment and inform the gate attendee that access is granted. Susan Price, PFMC office manager, confirmed this.
Price also stated that, while Dr. Carpenter has a waitlist for new patients, Barrett and Dr. Teresa Crosby – who joined in Nov. 2015 as a nurse practitioner with a doctorate from TCU and formerly worked for Lakeside Physicians in Granbury – are both accepting new patients.
Since opening a physical therapy unit in April, Price stated that PFMC has been “non-stop busy since day one” with many patients transferring over Lake Granbury Medical Center.
As a part of GRHI, physicians at PFMC are paid through GRHI, while staff is paid out of the GRMC budget, according to Price.
Travis M. Smith, @travis5mith