Concerns Over Medical School Ballot Proposition
By Era Sundar
As the vote on Proposition 1 nears, some Austinites are concerned that the proposed tax increase to raise money for the Travis County healthcare district would have adverse side effects.
Brad Parsons is an Austin resident. He says the rate increase would hit most homeowners hard, regardless of where they live.
“They might be in a fairly decent neighborhood and they’re probably stretched just to make a $4,000 or $5,000 a year property tax payment,” Parsons said. “To raise that some more for something like this — I can see in my mind that this is coming out of the elderly, the fixed income people. This going to come out of their food budget.”
Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, an advocate for Proposition 1, says the increase is not that extreme. The proposition would raise the Central Health tax rate from about 8 cents to nearly 13 cents on every $100 of assessed property value.
“People think their overall tax rate goes up by 63 percent,” Watson said. “And that of course isn’t true. It goes up 63 percent on the Central Health tax rate. For the average home in Travis County, that would be somewhere below $9 a month.”
The money raised by the tax wouldn’t fund the actual building of the medical school or the related teaching hospital. Greg Hartman is president and CEO of the Seton Family of Hospitals in Central Texas.
“The University of Texas will be responsible for building the actual physical structure of the medical school, the building,” Hartman said. “And the Seton Healthcare family is gonna build the actual building itself of the hospital. The dollars that we are talking about will help to fund services that are being provided by faculty at the medical school and the services being provided at the medical school.”
Senator Watson says the medical school project is an investment in the community that would bring 15,000 jobs to the area. Many of those jobs would not require a four-year college degree. Still, some are skeptical. Laura Pressley is a long-time Travis County resident.
“They say it’s a community investment and we should see a return on that investment,” Pressley said. “Well, I don’t see a return. The return I would expect is my taxes would go down. But I have not seen that. It has not gone down in one instance. So I am not buying the same line again and expecting different results.”
The Travis County Taxpayers Union has filed a lawsuit claiming that Central Health has added language to the ballot that could influence voters to approve it. The Taxpayers Union is asking a judge to stop the ballots from being counted until the ballot language is reworded in a more neutral way.