Health district board proposes higher tax rate for 2011 budget
The board of Central Health, formerly known as the Travis County Healthcare District, is mulling a $107 million spending plan for 2011 that includes increasing its tax rate to pay for indigent health care.
The board plans to ask county commissioners to approve the “effective tax rate,” or the rate that would bring in the same amount of money — about $65 million — as the current rate. The district also will gain $1 million in tax money from new construction added to the tax rolls.
The proposed rate of 7.24 cents per $100 of assessed property value — up from the current 6.74-cent rate — would increase the tax bill for an average Travis County residence, valued at $222,231 with the standard 20 percent exemption, by $13.01, for a total of $160.90.
John Stephens, chief financial officer for Central Health, said the higher rate is necessary because property values overall — including commercial property — have declined. If the rate is approved, homeowners might see their tax go higher or lower depending on how their property value changes, Stephens said.
Because the Travis Central Appraisal District is still hearing protests over its assessments, property values could change slightly until numbers become final later this month, Chief Appraiser Patrick Brown said.
The board expects to give preliminary approval to the budget Aug. 18 and hold public hearings on the budget and tax rate afterward. County commissioners would give final approval in September, before the district’s new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
Later this month, the board will present its proposed budget to commissioners and ask for permission to issue certificates of obligation for the $18 million health clinic it is building at 1210 W. Braker Lane. The board hasn’t decided whether to issue the certificates, which are similar to municipal bonds, but wants the flexibility in case it decides to establish credit while interest rates are low.
Board members debated whether they should pursue that option — the certificates are paid off over 20 years — when Central Health expects to have $94 million in reserves in 2011, an amount not included in the $107 million budget. Stephens said he would propose that the board impose a slight tax increase, which would come out to 0.14 cents the first year, to pay off the debt, but several board members balked.
“We have such a high reserve I can’t go there at this time,” said Bobbie Barker, who cast the lone no vote of the seven board members present. Anthony Haley and Dr. Donald Patrick were absent.
The board’s proposed budget would increase spending 9 percent and includes $5.8 million to expand health services.