|Ocala, FL -
October 2,1 2012|
Published in the Ocala Star-Banner Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
A community's support for top-quality health care and a strong school system are valued assets large firms give a high priority when searching for sites to establish new plants and regional offices.
Without question, Munroe Regional Medical Center passes the high-quality test with an impressive score. It is ranked as one of the 50 best hospitals in the nation, has won many state and national awards for a wide range of services and has strong support in the area.
While a low turnout of voters in the recent primary election led to the rejection of additional tax support for the school system, it should be noted there was no organized effort in support of the millage increase. The rejection should not be viewed by any business considering Marion County as the view of the majority of the entire electorate.
Not to be overlooked in assessing educational opportunities here is the College of Central Florida. It deserves recognition, having been tagged as one of the top 120 colleges in the United States. The college is capable of providing programs for any new company needing training for its employees.
With Munroe facing the need for additional revenue, it is of critical importance for voters in the Nov. 6 general election to approve a bond issue funded by 1 mill for five years. The funds will be used for capital improvements. This will enable Munroe to maintain its high-quality health care under local control as a publicly owned, nonprofit institution.
Approval of the bond issue will head off Munroe being leased or sold to a private for-profit hospital organization geared to providing profits for distant investors. This, assuredly, will result in quality services and meeting community needs being drained and, in some instances, likely eliminated.
Be mindful, a for-profit operator will not be required to reveal financial records, including the income of top executives that, in many cases, is incredibly high. Transparency is not a factor for the chain operators. In contrast, Munroe officials stand ready to meet local needs and welcome community input.
Back to the bond issue. The wording on the ballot reads, "Are you for bonds or against?" Voters are being asked to approve the bond issue for five years. The millage is projected to produce $65 million over the five-year span.
Based on appraised value after eliminating the homestead exemption, 75 percent of homeowners will pay an additional $65 a year over the course of the bond issue. That figures out to about $5.50 a month.
It is recognized that taxpayers are reluctant to pay more taxes unless assured by the governmental entity seeking the funds that they are needed and will be spent wisely.
Munroe, of course, is not a governmental entity. It is owned by the people of Marion County and operates in the open.
Above all else, those guiding the hospital in years past and those currently in charge have aptly demonstrated how to spend money wisely.
In line with MRMC's policy of keeping abreast of the latest in health care equipment and procedures, a world-class Neonatal Unit for delivering babies recently opened. Its new Cardiac Care Unit is destined to save even more lives.
Munroe is a major force in teaming up with other community organizations and programs in supporting activities designed to improve the quality of life in Marion County. This community activity likely will be lost under a lease arrangement.
Providing care for residents unable to pay for the services they receive, and the high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients, has reached the point that additional revenue is needed in the immediate years ahead.
The hundreds of members of Munroe's Prestige 55, the largest hospital volunteer force in Florida, the large number of hospital staff members, the countless individuals pleased with the hospital's services and others planning to go there when the need arises, pose potential strong voter support for the bond issue.
As it stands today, Munroe is a classic example of highly effective spending practices. That not a single dime of tax funds was used to expand and equip the institution and its satellite operations is a remarkable achievement. It should ease any concern as to how the hospital's additional funds will be spent.
It is unlikely there is another county in the nation that owns such a highly regarded hospital without costing its residents tax dollars to build, operate, equip and expand. Munroe is truly a prized asset. Property owners are urged to keep the hospital on its present course by stamping approval of the bond issue.
Bernard Watts is a former editor and editorial page editor for the Star-Banner. He is retired and lives in Ocala with artist wife, Margaret.