August 7, 2013 Edition

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Vote on proposed tax
for hospital underway

Kenny Lewis votes at the Lawrence County Courthouse during early voting yesterday. The election pertains to the addition of a half-cent sales tax and extending a current half-cent sales tax already in place. Both will help fund Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Gretchen Hunt

Early voting is underway and Election Day will be Tuesday as Lawrence County voters cast their ballots in a special election pertaining to funding the county's hospital.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital is seeking an extension of its existing half-cent county sales tax, as well as the passage of an additional half-cent tax. Both taxes would be in place until 2023, and funds collected would be used to fund the hospital's general operations.

Administrator George Fray said the hospital has always lost money, mainly because of emergency room losses. He said decreased revenue at Lawrence Health System's nursing home, Lawrence Hall Nursing Center, coupled with decreased federal funding has forced the hospital to seek this additional tax.

LHS Vice President for Support Services Junior Briner said hospitals like LMH, which are called critical access hospitals, have taken a hit in the reduction of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

Fray said 11 hospitals in Arkansas have already passed a similar tax.

"This is a critical vote for the future of the county," Fray said. "It's important that the community continue to have a hospital."

Registered voters can complete their ballot through early voting weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Monday.

Polls will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

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