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CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. — Voters in Crittenden County have approved a sales tax increase.

The referendum raises the county sales tax by one percent.

For: 85.7% (3,952)
Against: 14.3% (661)

The money generated by the tax increase will go to Crittenden Regional Hospital, which is more than $20 million in debt.

The one-percent tax takes the county’s total sales tax to 11 percent and is expected to generate $6 million a year over five years, for a total of $30 million.

The hospital, which has been closed since a fire earlier this month, says a shortage of  doctors, lower reimbursements, and more poor patients led to its financial troubles.

Collections of the new tax will start July 1, and the hospital will begin getting payments from it in October.

Gene Cashman, CEO of Crittenden Regional Hospital, provided this statement Wednesday:

We are deeply grateful for the outcome of yesterday’s election and the overwhelming community support for Crittenden Regional Hospital.  Over the last few weeks, the CRH staff, physicians and I have all been inspired by so many expressions of support and appreciation from patients, families and the community.  We are moving forward with plans to strengthen the hospital further by recruiting and retaining additional physicians, and making upgrades to our facilities and services that will ultimately lead to a stable financial foundation for the hospital.

Of course, our first order of business is to fully re-open the hospital following the June 6 fire so our community can again have access to convenient, high quality care here at CRH.  We’re working diligently to make that happen, and we anticipate a reopening date of July 7.  Between now and July 7, we have many milestones to reach to ensure the facility meets the rigorous standards required for hospitals.  We’ll keep you posted on the exact re-opening timetable as we get closer to July 7.

I’d also like to thank our board for their support through this process and the Quorum Court for voting to place the tax proposal on the ballot.