Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

August 29, 2013

A taxing time

Area taxing entities propose rising property tax rates


Mineral Wells Index

— By LIBBY CLUETT



It’s that time of the year for taxing entities to approve their final budgets and propose the 2013-14 tax rate.

Throughout the county, many entities are adopting increased rates and must give the public time to speak up.

At Monday’s meeting of Palo Pinto County commissioners, Hog Mountain resident Jean Bennett addressed her elected officials, asking them “to see of there is any way possible to adjust your budget a little bit lower. There’s not that much money floating around.”

Bennett cited a county population in which many citizens qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, many are on fixed incomes and others are accepting state aide.

Alas, commissioners adopted a tax rate for the coming fiscal year of 35.2 cents per $100 taxable property value.

On Tuesday night, the Palo Pinto Hospital District board became the last county taxing entity to adopt its proposed tax rate for the coming fiscal year. Hospital trustees propose raising the tax rate by 1.6 cents per $100 taxable property value, from 23 cents to 24.6 cents.

As it has in past years, PPGH’s tax rate covers a portion of the bill for patients under charity care and those who don’t pay. This year the hospital budgeted $14 million in charity care and $2.5 million for bad debt, which was offset by a current tax rate of 23 cents. Next year the hospital projects spending $14.5 million in charity care and $2.5 million in covering bad debt, which totals $17 million.

“This year’s proposed tax rate of (24.6 cents per $100 taxable valuation) will bring in an estimated $6.1 million to the (hospital) District,” said Palo Pinto General Hospital CEO Harris Brooks, adding, “$6.1 million will cover about 35.8 percent of the charity care and bad debt.”

“The hospital district has to ‘cover’ – a positive bottom line – the other $10.9 million in charity care and bad debt, totaling $17 million before the hospital truly has a positive – in the black – bottom line,” Brooks explained.

Still other taxing entities in the county raised their property tax rates, including the cities of Gordon, Mineral Wells and Mingus.

Unlike local governments, schools cannot raise their tax rate above $1.04, without going to a vote.

This school year, just one school district will have an increased tax rate.

Palo Pinto ISD succeeded in May with a $3 million dollar bond election to make upgrades to the building infrastructure and construct a cafeteria/auditorium. Voters approved an addition 4 cents per $100 valuation, which will be reflected in the 2013-14 school year budget.

Mineral Wells ISD announced earlier in August that it will ask voters to approve a $25 million bond election on Nov. 5. The monies would go toward entirely replacing Lamar Elementary, replacing the high school track, adding security upgrades and making upgrades to the junior high. But this would not become an additional tax until next school year, if approved.