News Column

First glimpse of budget keeps health tax flat

May 22, 2014

By Mary Ann Roser, Austin American-Statesman



May 22--

Central Heath staff said Wednesday night they are preparing a preliminary health care budget with a tax rate that is the same as the current rate, 12.9 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Although the Central Health board can change the rate later, no board members asked the staff to prepare a budget with a different rate.

No budget amounts for the coming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, have been determined yet. "This is our first look at the budget this year," John Stephens, director of financial planning and management told the board. "We'll get down into the numbers over the next few weeks."

Central Health, through a nonprofit it created, is making its first $35 million contribution this year to the new University of Texas Dell Medical School, slated to open in fall 2016.

If the preliminary tax rate wins final approval, Travis County property taxpayers would pay $310.10 on a home with the average taxable value of $240,387. Because of increasing appraisals and the addition of new property on the rolls, the amount homeowners would pay in January 2015 is higher than what they paid this year -- $23.10 more on the average bill.

Central Health, which is Travis County's public hospital district, oversees health care services to Travis County residents who are uninsured and underinsured.

Voters in Travis County, including those in Austin, approved the current rate, an increase of 5 cents from the 2013 rate, in a tax election in November 2012. The increase was proposed to help finance the medical school, a site for a new teaching hospital and improvements in health care services.

In the current year, the 12.9-cent rate produced $139 million in property tax revenue for Central Health. The amount was $59 million more in revenue than the organization received in 2013 under the old tax rate of 7.89 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The current budget for Central Health is $219.8 million. In addition, the nonprofit Central Health created to manage health care delivery, Community Care Collaborative, has a budget of $135.6 million. Funding for that nonprofit comes from Central Health, the Seton Healthcare Family and other sources.

On July 2, Central Health staff plan to present a preliminary budget to the board. The following week, they will present it to the Travis County Commissioners Court, which has the final say on the spending plan and tax rate.

Before the budget gets final approval in September, Travis County residents can weigh in at public hearings tentatively set for Aug. 28 and Sept. 3.

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Tax impact

Although this could change, Central Health staff members are preparing a new budget that leaves the tax rate for next year flat, at 12.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The owner of an average-valued home, $240,387, would pay $310.10 in January 2015 -- $23.10 more than the average tax bill this year because of rising property values and the addition of new property on the rolls.

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(c)2014 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)


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