- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

ASH FLAT, Ark. (AP) - Voters in Sharp County will decide Tuesday on a proposed sales tax increase that would pay for a new hospital.

If approved, the 1.5 percent increase would fund the construction and operations of the hospital that would be owned by Sharp County. The measure is backed by the Sharp County Hospital Foundation, which argues that the county needs a locally owned hospital with an emergency room. Backers of the plan said the tax would generate $2.6 million annually and the hospital would create about 110 jobs.

If approved, the tax would pay for a $12 million hospital to be built in the north of the county. One percent of the tax would be permanent and pay for maintenance and operation of the 19-bed hospital. The remaining half-percent would pay for construction and expire in about 28 years.

“A county-owned hospital will bring with it economic stimulus that our county so desperately needs to help create jobs, increase property values and to spur on new home construction,” the Sharp County Hospital Foundation said on its website. “It will also provide the incentives needed to keep small businesses open and will help keep residents from relocating to other communities that offer a hospital and better health care services.”

Sharp County Judge Larry Brown told the Batesville Daily Guard (http://bit.ly/1oF0yol ) that he opposes the tax proposal, saying the county doesn’t need to be in the hospital business. He noted that White River Health System plans to open an emergency room in Cherokee Village.

“Are we going to subsidize a facility that will put another facility out of business?” Brown asked.

White River Health System, which has made contributions to a group opposing the tax increase, called it “a significant sales tax increase that will create tens of millions of dollars of debt for Sharp County and essentially provide the same level of medical care that Sharp County citizens already receive locally.”

___

Information from: Batesville Guard, http://www.guardonline.com/