Decatur County will see wheel tax increase to save hospital
DECATUR COUNTY, Tenn. — Decatur County General Hospital will stay open, but cuts must be made. The hospital confirms it is cutting ten percent of its staff. County commissioners have also approved a first reading of a wheel tax increase. Residents like Tommy Welch said the proposed $60 county wheel tax increase puts pressure on taxpayers. “I thought it was kind of absurd because it’s already hard enough to pay all the taxes you’ve gotta pay,” Welch said, “Then they’re gonna start raising it?” The Chief Financial Officer at the hospital, Daniel Lewis, said this measure was a last resort by commissioners. The hospital currently employes about 100 people. Lewis said at least ten department managers and some part time employees will be let go. “We’ve been struggling like a lot of small hospitals for a while now. When we came into this year’s budgeting process we realized there’s gonna be a short fall this year,” Lewis said. He said last year, Decatur County General spent nearly $1 million treating patients who could not afford healthcare. County leaders said keeping the hospital doors open is a priority. Lewis said if the commissioners had chosen to close the hospital, patients would have to drive anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to the closest medical facility. “When you’re talking about an emergency, 20 minutes is a lot of time,” he said. Welch agrees the hospital needs to stay, but maybe not at the expense of those who are struggling. “I think there’s has to be other ways. I’m assuming they’ve explored other ways but just socking it to the county residents is gonna hurt,” Welch said. The wheel tax increase passed unanimously at the county commissioners’ meeting, September 22 . Commissioners will vote on it a final time at the next meeting at the end of October. If it passes again, the tax will be effective December first.