El Paso County Commissioners and University Medical Center staff and board members continue to meet to hash out the budget for next year and tackle possible problems like the tax rate and the El Paso Children's Hospital situation.
"It comes as no surprise to anyone that the budget issues with EPCH as well as with... UMC continue, and they're going to continue for years to come," UMC spokesman Ryan Mielke said.
There could be more complications than originally anticipated. This year's budget for the combined UMC and Children's campus relies on Children's keeping a key designation.
"We need to understand that there may be a possibility that we don't get the 'hospital within a hospital designation' and that would mean an extra $10 million, possibly, less," said Commissioner David Stout, (D) Precinct 2"
That "hospital within a hospital" status makes sure the children's hospital gets Medicaid reimbursements. It can't take tax revenue, but UMC leaders are already pushing for a roughly 6 percent increase in taxes from last year based on the current situation. Both Children's and UMC's boards are working to keep it, but it's still a concern.
"I don't think it's fair to the public or the taxpayer to leave that very important point out of the discussion," Stout said.
Another concern for commissioners is the pay for UMC employees: "merit increases" that they want to look closer at but staff say are important to keep morale high and UMC going.
"The merit program finds a way to reward the fantastic performance by our employees," Mielke said. "So that's a great program that we have, it motivates our employees and really keeps them loyal to our hospital."
County commissioners did approve a proposed higher tax rate for UMC this past week, but there will be several meetings and changes to directly address commissioners and administrators on the subject before it's fully put into place. A public hearing on the tax rate will be held Aug. 30, with a second one Sept. 6. That same day UMC's board will vote on it, and it will come to commissioners for final approval Sept. 19.