Houston County commissioners approved a property tax increase benefitting the Houston County Healthcare Authority on Monday.

Commissioners approved increasing a special property tax benefitting Southeast Health on Monday by 1.5 mills beginning in the tax year ending on September 30, 2024. The increase was requested by the Houston County Healthcare Authority, which oversees the hospital.

William Nichols, general counsel for Houston County Healthcare Authority, told the commission last week that the decision to ask the commission for an increase to the special tax of 1.5 mills “was not made lightly by our board.”

“One (reason) is the skyrocketing cost of contract labor,” Nichols explained. “The second is the federal government’s recent reduction of our reimbursement rate for our part of the world. The third is inflationary costs that every citizen and business in this county and this country has to deal with right now.”

Following Monday’s vote, commissioner Brandon Shoupe said he was satisfied with the explanation from Southeast Health’s chief financial officer Derek Miller and Nichols on why the full tax was needed for the hospital, according to the Dothan Eagle.

“I still have a lot of concerns, but they did a good job addressing some of the concerns that I have,” Shoupe told the Dothan Eagle.

The rate on the special tax is currently set at 2.5 mills, and the proposed increase would set the mill rate at 4, the limit set on the special tax passed by Houston County voters in 1949. Under the law, the Houston County Commission is required to pass a mill increase if requested by the healthcare authority as long as the rate on the special property tax remains at or below 4 mills.

Commissioner Ricky Herring abstained from Monday’s vote, citing his desire to see an attorney general’s opinion on what control the county has over the millage rate collected for the hospital, according to the Dothan Eagle.

Houston County currently has a millage rate of 17.5. Its total combined state, county and municipal rate is 34.5, according to the Houston County Revenue Department.

The mill rate is the amount of tax payable per dollar of the assessed value of a property. As used in property tax, 1 mill is equal to $1 in property tax levied per $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

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