If elected, they say they will ask voters to weigh in on whether to dissolve the district. The district, founded by voters in 1946, legally changed its mission in the mid 1990s but did so without voter approval.
In actions that would not need voter approval but would need a board majority, the slate candidates say they would suspend the district's grant-making and reduce property taxes. The state tax code allows an agency to annually decline to collect property tax revenues in an amount determined by the agency board. This provision has not been tested in San Mateo County and probably not in the state either, and would require analysis, county officials told the Almanac.
The slate candidates also complain about programs that fund the education of nurses, for example, who then graduate and move away; about the whole notion of using tax revenues for charitable causes; and about the district's chief executive making $193,000 annually while supervising one full-time employee and three part-timers.
The district runs from Foster City south to Menlo Park and west to the foothills and includes Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley and much of Menlo Park. Northern communities are covered by the Peninsula Healthcare District. East Palo Alto and the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park are not covered, nor are residents of Half Moon Bay, La Honda, Pescadero and other communities on the coast side.
Opposing the slate's agenda and seeking re-election to the district board are incumbents Arthur Faro and Dr. Jerry Shefren. They see an ongoing positive role for the district and say they look forward to improving outreach with innovative programs and more public contact. Mr. Faro is retired from a career in healthcare administration, including as the former chief executive of Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. Dr. Shefren is an ob-gyn and the former vice president of ambulatory care at Stanford University hospital.
About a third of the district's $9.5 million outlay for the 2014-15 fiscal year will go to schools and to help pay for nurses and prevent drug abuse and domestic violence, Dr. Shefren said.
"The district certainly helps plug some of the holes in our healthcare system, or lack of a healthcare system," he said. Children with obesity problems often live in poor households where proficiency in English is absent, as is an understanding of the importance of healthy diets, Dr. Shefren said. Insurance companies typically ignore preventive healthcare, he said, so funding efforts to improve its understanding "is simply a recognition that improving the health of the community isn't about keeping people in the hospital. It's about keeping people out of the hospital."
If the slate candidates are elected and call an election, and voters choose to dissolve the district, the matter would go to Martha Poyatos, a county official who oversees the formation of public agencies.
She would have two options. She could look for a "successor agency," such as the county government, to take over distribution of the district's revenues for healthcare purposes. Or she could distribute the revenues to other public agencies that serve district residents, including school, mosquito-abatement and open-space districts, and every city and town, she said.
In an interview, Mr. Hickey said he has considered the idea of a new healthcare district for the whole county. He said he would present the idea to voters, provided it did not raise property taxes. If voters turned it down, the Peninsula Healthcare District should also be dissolved, he said, adding: "I personally think that any beneficial functions of the district are best assumed by existing agencies who already have those capabilities."
Mr. McDowell agreed. "Many of the District's programs can be maintained by the county," he said in an email.
Mr. De Paula said he favors dissolving the district and not resuscitating it. "I don't believe in special districts," he said. If there are decisions to make on funding school nurses or a clinic in North Fair Oaks, the county supervisors should make them, he said.
Board members receive $1,500 a month for their own healthcare, the challengers say. The only benefit they should get is a small stipend for attending meetings, as is done in the Peninsula district, Mr. Hickey and Mr. McDowell said.
Both men would also change the 4:30 p.m. start time for meetings to something more accommodating to the public, and both would have the meetings recorded and posted on the district website.
The only people who come to the meetings are people seeking grants, Dr. Shefren said. "How many of us actually know what any of the special districts are doing?" he said. "I honestly think that the community just feels like it's working. ... When people are not voicing negativity about what you're doing, they're likely to be agreeing with you."
This story contains 881 words.
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