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Oklahoma elections: Hospital tax fails in Washita County

The Washita County Commission tried to strike the issue from the ballot but a judge last week reversed their efforts. Voters struck down the measure 55.4 percent to 44.6 percent.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: June 24, 2014

A proposition to continue a half-cent sales tax for Washita County’s only hospital was rejected by voters Tuesday night, with the measure failing by 10 percent.

According to the state Election Board, 1,411 voters — or 55.4 percent — were against the measure.

A dispute over the hospital tax ended up in court last week, and a judge placed a temporary restraining order on the county commission and county election board to prevent them from interfering with the vote. The county had been telling residents the hospital tax question was invalid and their votes wouldn’t count.

Cordell Memorial Hospital has been receiving the half-cent sales tax for 10 years. Hospital Administrator Charlie Greene said the hospital, which reported an operating loss of $309,111 last year, needs the revenue to continue providing health care to Washita County.

County commissioners disagree.

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Financial information provided by the hospital shows the sales tax generated $1 million in 2013. County sales tax generated $1.5 million for the hospital in 2012 and $1.7 million in 2011, according to an audit performed by Eide Bailly in 2012.

Also on the ballot was a proposition to allocate a 5/8-cent sales tax to Washita County emergency services, with about 78.5 percent going to fire departments and 21.5 percent going to ambulance services over five years. The proposal passed, with 82.8 percent of voters’ approval.

by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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