Letter to the Editor: Nick Graham

Why I support the ER Sales Tax (and why I originally didn’t)

Bourbon County is at a crossroads.  In the span of the last year, we’ve lost two major employers and our Emergency Room.  We’ve always been facing headwinds when it came to population decline (more on that later), but ever since the 1-2-3 punch of Timken, Value Merchandisers, and the ER, it’s almost felt like we are at the beginning of some sort of doom spiral into extinction.

Why I originally didn’t support the ER sales tax:

When the sales tax for an ER was first proposed, I was against it.  When Mercy announced its closing in 2019, we suffered what I would call a massive community trauma.  Many of us assumed that the hospital would always be there, and when it became clear that it wouldn’t, we as a community went into panic mode.  Trauma has a way of skewing your judgment, making you susceptible to emotion-based decisions you wouldn’t make under normal circumstances, and that has happened to our County in the wake of losing our hospital.  Millions of dollars have been spent trying to fill the gaping hole that Mercy left in our community, and while I believe those investments were made with only the best intentions, they’ve only made that gaping hole bigger.  When the concept of an ER sales tax was first discussed, I questioned how this investment would pan out any differently than the others.

Why I support it now:

Thankfully, before we as a community put the cart before the horse once again, things slowed down.  In the time since, we’ve had a volunteer group of well-respected local medical and business professionals take the reins of this initiative and take a very pragmatic, non-emotional, practical approach.  Nobody on the Citizens for an E.R. committee has any dream of pie-in-the-sky outcomes, they are focused strictly on what we as a rural Kansas community can realistically accomplish.  Some of the members of this committee are people I’ve been pestering for literally over two decades to run for City or County Commission to no avail.  These are people whose judgment I have 100% faith in, and I believe in what they have very meticulously placed on the ballot.  I also believe there is MUCH more at stake with this ballot initiative than just an ER.

What I fear if this sales tax doesn’t pass:

Even with the painful loss of Timken and Value, we currently have what every other Kansas county without an ER doesn’t: several large employers.  Most of these employers are manufacturers, manufacturers who I suspect value having an ER nearby in case of a workplace accident.  I suspect their insurance companies value it as well.  So what happens if our lack of an ER becomes permanent and not just a blip?  I have no inside information, but I can tell you that some of our biggest employers have facilities in neighboring towns with ERs that have PLENTY of empty space for expansion.  Is 1/4 of one cent worth keeping our major employers in Bourbon County happy?  I think it is.  I have heard at least one person tell me “Linn County doesn’t have an ER, so why do we need one?”  While I have nothing at all against Linn County (I have a great job there), I would implore anyone curious to work up a list of large employers in Linn County.  Spoiler Alert: This exercise will not take you long.

Actually, when it comes to the numbers, Linn County has been relatively lucky when it comes to maintaining its population while not having a hospital or ER.  Back in 2016, Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Development created fifty-year population projections for every county in Kansas, going from 2014 to 2064.  Those projections show Linn County only losing 20% of its population by 2064, going from 9502 in 2014 to 7677 in 2064.  However, Bourbon County (and keep in mind that these projections were made when Bourbon County still had a hospital) was projected to lose a full 25% of its population by 2064, going from 14,772 in 2014 to 11,087 in 2064.  How do you think that number changes if we don’t even have an ER?  How about if we don’t have an ER, and lose one or two more large employers who need the medical and liability protection of an ER nearby?  My goal with this isn’t to scare people (though I myself will admit that I’m scared), but to encourage you to think about this ER sales tax as more than just about an ER, but about the future of Bourbon County itself.

Nick Graham
Uniontown, KS

4 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: Nick Graham”

  1. $.25 cents per $100 spent in Bourbon County is a very small investment to help insure the lives of all Bourbon County residents and visitors!

  2. Aren’t we taxed enough? if its such a small amount, why can’t the county that collects so much in taxes from us already ,find the funds?

    If I have to make a major purchase, I have to budget for it.

    Stop asking for more of my hard earned money.

    1. YES – we are . Why is the pilot money not in play here? Is there an issue with that as a revenue stream? Already spent? Mis-spent due to misunderstanding of requirements? It seems this concern should take priority over any other concern in the county right now vs. adding hardship to already overburdened working class people.

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