While the City of Lubbock is working out ways to cut your property taxes, University Medical Center proposes a slight property tax increase. The hospital says a property tax increase is necessary because of state budget cuts and an increase in unfunded patient care.
Officials at UMC say they don't like raising taxes, and they don't want to do it. But they say, it's just one of several fiscally responsible steps needed to keep this hospital in business.
UMC will ask Lubbock County Commissioners to approve a budget that includes a slight property tax increase for the hospital district. "We obviously prefer not to do something like this," says UMC Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Dane. Dane realizes the sensitivity of the subject, given recent skyrocketing valuations. But, Dane is frank about the need.
NC11: "Do you think it's fair for the taxpayers to shoulder the burden?"
Dane: "It's important to keep taxes low, but we have to do this."
The proposed tax increase takes the hospital tax from 10.43 cents to 10.89 cents. That calculates to about $8 dollars per $100,000 home after new valuations are thrown into the mix. Dane says UMC will lose $9 million in state funding next year. That, coupled with the increasing needs of unfunded patients, results in financial shortfalls.
"There are a lot of smaller businesses who can no longer afford to purchase health insurance for their employees. As a result, employees are going without health insurance," says Dane.
But, as the designated county hospital, UMC must treat those patients who can't afford care. Ultimately, the tax hike must be approved by county commissioners. Commissioner James Kitten says he's seen the hospital's proposed budget and agrees with the tax hike. "If we don't stay on top of it, we could be in trouble. The hospital could close."
This tax hike would only make up for a small portion of UMC's budget shortfalls. The hospital will lose $9 million in state funding next year. Increased taxes will only bring in $731,000 a year. So, the hospital is also cutting expenses and controlling the costs of nurses. It's challenging its staff and directors to cut 3% to 4% more off their budgets. And, it's rewarding employees who come up with innovative ways to save the hospital money.
This issue goes to commissioners court August 25th.