11 Steps that will Help You Sleep at Night!
As a firm who has a demonstrated record of success in hospital tax elections and won $180 million for clients, we have a unique perspective on how to begin the process. These steps are work that you do before you start the real work of public information and outreach. Hospitals who prepare well in the beginning are more successful.
First, research your messaging in the last election and see what promises you made and collect data on the promises you kept.
This step provides you with information that you can use to show that the hospital is trustworthy of another investment by the community. Use photos and descriptions of these completed projects. Get a testimonial from a popular physician on how this progress has helped deliver quality care in your hospital.
Second, research how other public entities like school boards, city or county or fire departments have succeeded or failed in their recent tax elections.
This information gives you an idea of the willingness of the voters to support public entities. Look for organized opposition in these past elections because those same folks may oppose your proposition. If this is your first election, this step is critical because you do not have a hospital track record to review.
Third, determine the capital needs of the hospital that the funds will address.
Perhaps, technology upgrades, lab expansion, a new clinic, new services like infusion or outpatient surgery are needed. Maybe you actually need a new hospital facility. Even if you are using other funding for your new facility, supplementing it with a community investment is important. Compile a list of your needs and most importantly prioritize them.
If your funds will be to build a new hospital, you will need to demonstrate why this is necessary and how the community investment fits with the overall funding.
Fourth, quantify the capital required to meet the needs that you have identified.
You need more than one global number. Today’s voters want to see an itemized list. Make sure that you know the schedule on which you will address the needs and account for any escalation in price. Currently construction costs are considerably higher than they were two years ago.
Fifth, determine the amount and term of the property or sales tax that is realistic to attain the capital required.
Get the input of the hospital’s bond counsel. The amount and term of the tax must meet bond obligations.
Sixth, learn the required schedule of legal events that need to happen in relationship to the various election date options.
Your bond counsel can provide the schedule. This action begins your decision sequence on which date would be best for your election. It also helps you to plan the public outreach information schedule.
Seventh, determine what other items or candidates may be on the ballot on your most likely date of the election.
Voters are influenced by other propositions and candidate elections. For example – If the school system is unpopular and they have a proposition on the same ballot it may increase your unfavorable votes.
Eighth, test the favorability of your proposed use of funds and other variables with the voters. In the preparation phase, you can modify your proposal to ensure your success. Once decisions are made and there is information in the public domain, changes are impossible. An accurate public opinion survey guides many key decisions in an election effort.
Ninth, bring key physicians into the decision making process when you feel It’s appropriate.
You need “buy-in” from physicians to be successful. Having a discussion with physicians and getting their input is ensuring that your use of funds is aligned with the needs that they believe are important. It also makes them part of the team rather than part of the spectators to the process.
Tenth, as you work through this preparatory process, look for allies.
Some members of your leadership and hospital team have deep roots in the community. Quietly make a list of those people. As you proceed through the entire community education and outreach process at a later time you will need these allies.
Eleventh, develop a board strategy to persuade board members to approve your proposition.
Board members are fearful of losing tax elections and raising taxes in general. If this is a renewal it is easier for board members to approve. In all cases, board members need information and data to help them make ballot decisions. Survey results are very helpful. Major points must stand on as much data as possible. Preparing your messaging and timing your presentation to your board is extremely important. Questions must be anticipated and nothing must be left to chance.
After you have completed these 11 steps successfully, you are ready to prepare for the next phase, which is gaining the approval of your county board, state bond commission and educating the many stakeholders of the hospital and the public. TCI can guide the leadership team through this preparation process and provide the research and messaging that you need. We want you to be successful in your next election!
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