County Commissioners approved a proposed tax rate for the El Paso County Hospital District, which includes University Medical Center of El Paso, with a narrow 3-2 vote.
Commissioners Vince Perez and Shane Haggerty voted against the proposal. Perez told ABC-7 this year's proposed rate would amount to a 7 percent increase. When taking last year into account, the hospital district's tax rate has risen 13percent, Perez said. "I think we should look carefully at other options," Perez said. "I don't think it sends the right message to the community for the cost of the hospital district."
County Judge Veronica Escobar told ABC-7 the hospital district is facing a budget deficit, even when taking the proposed tax rate increase into account.
The Board of Managers at UMC proposed a tax rate increase of 25 cents per $100 assessed value. The proposal includes a rate of 19 cents per $100 assessed value to fund maintenance and operations.
UMC spokesman Ryan Mielke told ABC-7 the increase would raise the current tax rate by about $1.80 a month for the average homeowner. The owner of an average $123,000 home would pay an extra $22 a year.
Mielke said the court's narrow approval is part of the transitional approval process as the hospital moves towards public hearings on the proposed tax hike.
"It's for making sure we provide the greatest amount of care and greater access for for our community," Mielke said. "We have a growing, growing need in El Paso, we have a growing population and we want to make sure we serve them."
Escobar says the increase has nothing to do with the status of the Children's Hospital. "Children's has been paying back its rent to UMC and paying for all the contracts and has not been late," Escobar said. "There is no subsidy."