Billy Guice and the Jackson County Board of Supervisors would have you believe that there is no statutory authority in Mississippi law whereby the county can levy a tax to support a county-owned hospital. Below we have copied several statues which authorize taxes, donations, and/or expenditures in support of hospitals, even those that are not “community hospitals.” Coastal counties and municipalities receive special treatment, with no limitation placed on the amount that can be donated for the purposes of charity wards.
The funds need not be in the form of donations. The county has power to tax and spend. Under its authority for expenditure, the county may contract with any group, public or private, to spend county money, so long as the group returns to the county “good and valuable consideration” in the way of caring for “indigent sick” or “for the promotion of public health of the county.” There is no dispute that SRHS excels at both of these functions. Shouldn’t the county and Board of Supervisors recognize the great financial burden saddled upon SRHS to provide care for inmates, Chancery court commitments, those without health insurance, “the indigent sick,” etc.?
The Board of Supervisors finds it worthwhile to support the activities of the Trent Lott International Airport, the Port of Pascagoula, the Small Craft Harbor, a golf course, etc. with public funds. Certainly it can’t be argued that anyone using those facilities would fall within the definition of indigent. Why is it that the JCBOS doesn’t find the cause of public health and supporting the healthcare of the impoverished to be equally as worthwhile?
The supervisors have said over and over how they don’t want SRHS to fall into bankruptcy. They have the power prevent that. If SRHS falls into bankruptcy, it will be because the JCBOS chose to let SRHS fall.
Attendees of the Board of Supervisors meeting are welcomed to print out the below. Ask your supervisors and their attorneys to explain how it is that Jackson County cannot legally provide funding to SRHS. There is well-established case law in support of the below statutes and in county governments supporting hospitals, generally. Don’t accept vague and nebulous answers. Ask for specifics — line and verse.
The boards of supervisors of the various counties in the state are hereby authorized, in their discretion, to set aside, appropriate and expend moneys from the general fund for treatment of the indigent sick, for the promotion of public health of the county, and for the support and maintenance of a full-time county health department. The boards of supervisors are further authorized, in their discretion, to appropriate and transfer moneys from the general fund to any state agency, department or institution for the purpose of providing health care services or having such services provided to indigent persons of the county.
The board of supervisors of each county is hereby authorized, in its discretion, to donate money for the objects and purposes following, to wit:
(h) Charity wards in hospitals. A sum of money not exceeding One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per month to maintain a charity ward or wards in any hospital in their respective counties, or in the event there shall be no hospital in such county, then a like sum, in their discretion, to maintain a charity ward or wards in any hospital in any adjoining county receiving and treating patients from such county having no hospital.
(i) Same – coast counties. The several counties of this state bordering on the tidewater of the Gulf of Mexico are hereby authorized and empowered, in the discretion of the proper authorities thereof, to appropriate such a sum of money as said authorities shall deem reasonable, to provide and maintain a charity ward or wards, in any of the hospitals in said counties, or, in the discretion of said authorities, to make and enter into contracts with any such hospitals for the treatment and care in such hospitals of the indigent sick of said counties, and to pay therefor out of the general fund of such counties such sum or sums as shall be a reasonable and just compensation to said hospital. However, the board of supervisors of any county mentioned herein may, in its discretion, make and enter into contracts with any hospital in any adjoining county receiving and treating patients from the respective counties mentioned herein in such hospitals of the indigent sick of said counties, mentioned herein, and to pay therefor out of the general fund of such county, such sum or sums that shall be reasonable and just to said hospitals.
The governing authorities of municipalities shall have the power and authority to donate a sum, not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($ 100.00) per month, to maintain a charity ward or wards in any hospital situated in the same county in which such municipality is located.
All municipalities within the several counties of this state bordering on the tidewater of the Gulf of Mexico, are hereby authorized and empowered, in the discretion of the proper authorities thereof, to appropriate such a sum of money as said authorities shall deem reasonable, to provide and maintain a charity ward or wards, in any of the hospitals in said municipalities, or, in the discretion of said authorities, to make and enter into contracts with any such hospitals for the treatment and care in such hospitals of the indigent sick of said municipalities, and to pay therefor out of the general fund of such municipalities such sum or sums, as shall be a reasonable and just compensation to said hospital.
In addition, the governing authorities of municipalities shall have the power and authority to donate and furnish free of charge lights, power and water from municipally-owned electric light and water plants to hospitals or benevolent institutions located within any such municipality.
The board of supervisors acting for a county, supervisors district or districts or an election district of such county, and the board of aldermen, city council or other like governing body acting for a city or town, are hereby authorized and empowered to levy ad valorem taxes on all the taxable property of such counties, cities, towns, supervisors district or election district for the purposes of raising funds for the maintenance and operation of hospitals, nurses’ homes, health centers, health departments, diagnostic or treatment centers, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes and related facilities established under the provisions of Sections 41-13-15 through 41-13-51, and for making additions and improvements thereto and to pledge such ad valorem taxes, whether or not actually levied, for the retirement of debt incurred either by or on behalf of such facilities and/or pursuant to agreements executed under the authority of the Mississippi Hospital Equipment and Facilities Authority Act; however, any debt incurred by the pledge of taxes to retire debt incurred either by or on behalf of such facilities and/or pursuant to such agreements shall not be included in debt limits prescribed by Section 19-9-5 or Section 21-33-303, as the case may be unless and until such pledged taxes are actually levied. The amount levied for such purpose shall not exceed five (5) mills on the dollar in any one (1) year. Expenditures of said taxes for such additions and improvements shall not exceed in any fiscal year the total amount budgeted therefor by the board of trustees for the respective institutions affected. The tax levy authorized in this section shall be in addition to all other taxes now or hereafter authorized to be levied by such counties, cities, towns, supervisors districts or election district.
It is further provided that any such supervisors district in a county with a land area of five hundred ninety-two (592) square miles, wherein Mississippi Highways 8 and 9 intersect, participating with a municipality under provisions of law by contracting to assist the cost of operation and maintenance of an erected hospital, may levy such ad valorem tax as is needed to operate and maintain such hospital as is provided herein.