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Hospital taxing district on Larry Metz’s radar again

State Rep. Larry Metz has requested an audit of the North Lake County Hospital District.

The Yalaha Reupblican wants the state auditor general to review the district’s financial statements from 2012 through the end of the fiscal year and has requested that the audit be completed by September 2016.

That’s two months before voters in Lake County will be asked to weigh in on whether the North Lake County Hospital District, which has taxing authority, should continue. Under a law passed in 2012 — and spearheaded by Metz — the hospital district will expire unless residents vote to keep it intact in the November 2016 election.

The request caught Lake County Hospital District Chairwoman Catherine Hanson by surprise.

“I don’t mind the audit being done,” Hanson said. She added, though, that she has known Metz for years and that it would have been a “professional courtesy” to be told about the audit request before finding out through a reporter.

“We are political friends,” she said.

Metz made the request in writing to the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee which will discuss the issue on Monday. Metz did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

The North Lake County Hospital District has its books annually audited. Hanson said she’s not worried if the Auditor General examines the books: “If they find something we shouldn’t be doing, I want to know about it.”

Metz championed a bill in 2012 that abolished the district unless voters specifically reauthorized it. The bill also made clear that the district should pay for indigent care at all hospitals physically located in the district, not just at facilities owned by the North Lake County Hospital District.

The district has authority to levy an ad valorem tax not to exceed 1 mill on the dollar of the value of all nonexempt property within the county.

Metz’s audit schedule would allow plenty of time for the audit’s findings to be used in the local election. Hanson predicted the hospital district issue will be “very hot.”

“There’s a large group, working closely with Rep. Metz that want to kill it,” she said . If that occurs, she said, “It will have a serious impact on Lake County and the indigent population.”

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