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is a monthly e-newsletter featuring responses to selected inquiries received by the consultant staff of the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington. Please feel free to forward this e-mail to your colleagues. If this e-mail was forwarded to you, get your own copy - free!

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What is the compensation paid to a hospital district commissioner for each meeting attended? 

 

 

Each commissioner shall receive $104 for each day or portion of a day spent in actual attendance at official meetings of the district commission and for other similar activities (see RCW 70.44.050), not to exceed $9,984 per year, effective July 5, 2008. How the dollar threshold is determined, however, can be a bit confusing. The compensation is set by RCW 70.44.050, which, effective July 2007, set the dollar threshold at $90 per day, with compensation for each commissioner not to exceed $8,640 per year. RCW 70.44.050 also requires the state office of financial management (OFM) to adjust the dollar threshold for inflation every five years, beginning July 1, 2008, based upon the CPI during that period. OFM is required by RCW 70.44.050 to calculate the new threshold and transmit it to the office of the code reviser for publication in the Washington State Register at least one month before the new threshold is to take effect. Here, in accordance with RCW 70.44.050, and as explained in the Washington State Register at WSR 08-11-127, OFM submitted for publication the new threshold, which is $104 per day with a new annual compensation limit of $9,984. The new dollar threshold took effect July 5, 2008. WSR 08-11-127 also explains how the new threshold was calculated based upon the CPI from April 2003 to April 2008. As stated in RCW 70.44.050, OFM is required to adjust the threshold for inflation every five years, beginning July 1, 2008, meaning that a new threshold is scheduled to come into effect in July 2013.

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Must a hospital district sell surplus real property by competitive bid?

 

 

No. The sale of real property by a hospital district is governed by the procedures in RCW 70.44.300, and those procedures do not include a requirement that the sale be by competitive bid.

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Are there certain notice requirements for budget hearings?

 

 

Reference should be made to RCW 70.44.060(6) which provides in part:

(6) . . . The superintendent shall prepare a proposed budget of the contemplated financial transactions for the ensuing year and file the same in the records of the commission on or before the first day of November. Notice of the filing of said proposed budget and the date and place of hearing on the same shall be published for at least two consecutive weeks, at least one time each week, in a newspaper printed and of general circulation in said county. On or before the fifteenth day of November the commission shall hold a public hearing on said proposed budget at which any taxpayer may appear and be heard against the whole or any part of the proposed budget. Upon the conclusion of said hearing, the commission shall, by resolution, adopt the budget as finally determined and fix the final amount of expenditures for the ensuing year. Taxes levied by the commission shall be certified to and collected by the proper county officer of the county in which such public hospital district is located in the same manner as is or may be provided by law for the certification and collection of port district taxes. The commission is authorized, prior to the receipt of taxes raised by levy, to borrow money or issue warrants of the district in anticipation of the revenue to be derived by such district from the levy of taxes for the purpose of such district, and such warrants shall be redeemed from the first money available from such taxes when collected, and such warrants shall not exceed the anticipated revenues of one year, and shall bear interest at a rate or rates as authorized by the commission. (our emphasis)

So, published notice is required and a posted notice is not. If the district chooses to also provide posted notice, it certainly may do so, although there is no particular schedule that must be met (assuming the required published notice has been given). We suggest that the notice be posted several weeks in advance too, allowing the public a greater opportunity to arrange their attendance at the hearing, if they choose to attend.

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May commissioners and superintendents of a hospital district attend a dinner sponsored by a private business and receive a free dinner?

 

 

There is no problem with attending a meeting sponsored by a private vendor to explain a service or product they want to sell. The legal issue is raised by the provision of the free dinner for all attendees.

RCW 42.23.070(2) provides that no municipal officer may receive, directly or indirectly, any gift or gratuity from anyone except their employing municipality for any matter connected with their official services. Technically, a free dinner is a gift or gratuity that is being provided by a private party and there is a potential violation of this provision.

Having said that, a "de minimis" rule is usually applied that allows a public official to accept something that has very limited value. A banquet dinner normally would fall within this "de minimis" rule. The state statutes on ethics that apply to state officials actually contain an exemption for items or gifts that have a value of less than $50, and we presume a dinner would be less than this amount. See RCW 42.52.150. Unfortunately, there is not a similar provision in the statute that relates to local government officials but the same principle arguably could apply.

So there may be a technical violation but it is unlikely to be significant enough to warrant any kind of finding or action by the Office of the State Auditor. You are in a better position to judge the political landscape as to whether this is likely to cause any kind of public relations problem.

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Whether a hospital is exempt from property taxes.

 

 

Nonprofit hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by public hospital districts are exempt from property taxes. RCW 84.36.040. There is an issue, however, as to whether that exemption applies to property used for outpatient facilities. See DOR "Property Tax Special Notice" on "Property Tax Exemption for Nonprofit Hospitals, Proposed Revision of the Washington Administrative Code 458-16-260" dated March 6, 2009. DOR’s rule limits the exemption to areas that are exclusively used for inpatient care, while the Board of Tax Appeals has ruled in two cases that specific areas used by outpatients in the two hospitals were exempt. One case was appealed to superior court and upheld. DOR is now proposing to amend its "rule to remove the conflict between WAC 458-16-260 and the court’s decision with regard to the inpatient/outpatient test."

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If county-wide hospital district levies a 50 cent/$1000 assessed value tax under RCW 84.52.060 for emergency medical services, may the city levy one as well?

 

 

No. RCW 84.52.069(6) provides in part:

No other taxing district may levy a tax under this section if another taxing district has levied a tax under this section within its boundaries ...

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If county-wide hospital district levies a 50 cent/$1000 assessed value tax under RCW 84.52.060 for emergency medical services, may the city levy one as well?

 

 

No. RCW 84.52.069(6) provides in part:

No other taxing district may levy a tax under this section if another taxing district has levied a tax under this section within its boundaries ...


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