by Bob Bucholz and Taya Higgins
Co-Chairs of the YES Committee for the Levy Lid Lift
November ballots will include Proposition #1: “Restoring Regular Property Tax Levy.” This measure, created by Lopez Island Hospital District (LIHD), will preserve funding for healthcare on the island. LIHD has scheduled a special public meeting about the measure for October 16, 5:30 pm, at the Lopez Island Family Resource Center (virtual option available).
In 2017, when Island Hospital terminated its contract with Catherine Washburn Medical Association (CWMA), its decision had significant financial implications. Most importantly, Lopez Clinic (which included physical therapy) lost its status as a rural clinic of Island Hospital, resulting in a 50% reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates. When CWMA, Clinic staff, and community members sought a new model of management, they realized the Clinic would need ongoing financial support from the Lopez community; a primary care clinic and physical therapy couldn’t operate on Medicare and insurance payments alone. That April, nearly 86% of voters approved creation of the LIHD so property taxes could be used to cover the gaps in payment from visits and the actual cost of care. With that support, University of Washington Medicine, the only entity of over 20 that CWMA approached, agreed to manage the Clinic in partnership with the LIHD and CWMA. Soon after, Lopez Island Physical Therapy opened a private practice.
Here’s why LIHD is asking voters to restore the regular property tax level (also known as a “levy lid lift”)
When the Hospital District was created, voters approved a levy rate of $.75 per $1,000.00 of assessed property valuation. Since then, although property values have risen, a 2001 state law limits tax revenue increases to just 1% above the prior year. Thus, the levy rate available to the District has dropped to $.48 per $1,000.00 valuation. At the same time, the costs of healthcare have risen at least 6%. State law requires a public vote to lift the 1% lid and return the levy to the original rate.
Here’s what the levy lid lift will provide
• Increased income to sustain and enhance services at the Clinic and Physical Therapy.
• Support for the Lopez Pharmacy ownership transition (LIHD has already budgeted
$100,000; more may be needed).
• Maintaining reserves to buffer inflation and unexpected demands such as those caused by
• Ability to respond to changing community needs. For example, there are concerns about
urgent care, and LIHD and CWMA are working with Lopez Citizens for Health Care and other partners for solutions. Those will cost money, but with secure funding, LIHD can consider future potential partnerships with consideration of viable business plans and measures of quality.
• Assured LIHD funding base through 2030.
How much will your taxes go up?
For an $800,000 valued property (median Lopez home price), the annual increase would be approximately $215, or about $18 per month.
These are the issues LIHD and its partners will address with Proposition #1. For more information about the levy:
• Attend the public meeting on October 16.
• Visit the LIHD website – https://lopezislandhd.org.
• Contact the LIHD Superintendent or commissioners – https://lopezislandhd.org/contact-
• Follow LIHD on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/lopezislandhd.
• Watch for notices on Lopez Rocks.