Voters on Tuesday gave an emphatic “no” to a $327 million bond to build a new acute care hospital for Kaweah Delta Health Care District.
Final election-night results released by the Tulare County Election Division showed 57.3 percent of voters rejecting Measure H to 42.7 percent of voters supporting it. Two-thirds voter approval was needed for passage. Turnout was about 33.2 percent.
Most ballots have now been counted, but a final tally will occur Friday as additional ballots postmarked on or before May 3 arrive via mail.
The Kaweah Delta Health Care District board of directors put the bond measure on the ballot to build a new acute care hospital that meets state earthquake standards.
They focused on the tree – $48 per year – and missed an entire forest: having lifesaving care available when you need it 24-7.
Carl Anderson, Kaweah Delta Health Care District
The main hospital at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in downtown Visalia was built before modern earthquake requirements and can’t be used after 2030 for acute care patients.
Measure H proposed to raise property taxes in Kaweah Delta Health Care District by an average of $48.70 per year per $100,000 assessed valuation.
Voters rejected the bond measure because of the increase in tax bills, said Carl Anderson, president of the Kaweah Delta Health Care District.
“They focused on the tree – $48 per year – and missed an entire forest: having lifesaving care available when you need it 24-7,” he said.
The health care district must go back to the voters with another bond measure, said Lindsay Mann, CEO of the health care district.
“While we are disappointed, we are not distressed,” Mann said. “We will move this project forward as we must move it forward. There’s a lot of work to do, a lot of listening to do, a lot of communicating.”
Voters rejected the bond because “many of them are tired of seeing the increasing expansion of Kaweah Delta,” said Nevin House of Visalia, who hosted a No on H gathering at his home Tuesday evening.
There are other ways to do this hospital without making the people pay for it.
Nevin House, Visalia resident
“It’s getting bigger and bigger,” House said, “and then they come asking for money to get larger again. ... There are other ways to do this hospital without making the people pay for it.”
A Visalia No on Measure H Facebook page had 927 “likes” as of Tuesday, and some longtime Visalians such as retired Dr. Byron Riegel, a former Kaweah Delta Health Care District board member, publicly opposed the bond.
The No on Measure H camp was aided by an unexpected series of negative mailers from a group calling itself the California Taxpayers Coalition.
One mailer titled “Secret Election” said the hospital CEO was “trying to sneak a tax increase.”
Documents filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission revealed that Dr. Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi, chief executive officer of Tulare Regional Medical Center, contributed $38,000 to pay for the mailers and automated phone calls.
Benzeevi said in a statement he is a resident of Visalia and believes the hospital project is too expensive.
Monday, the Tulare Local Health Care District, which owns the Tulare hospital, voted to put a proposed $55 million hospital construction bond on a mail-in ballot.