Feud over hospital district prompts Mission to pull support for UTRGV medical school
Mission will not donate money toward the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley medical school unless local politicos drop plans for a new taxing district, said Mayor Norberto "Beto" Salinas.
Salinas recently rejected an agreement between Mission and UTRGV, which committed the city to contributing $250,000 annually until 2019 or until Hidalgo County voters approved a hospital district.
Adamantly opposed to the hospital district, Salinas withdrew financial support from the medical school altogether.
"They should have got it funded 100 percent when they brought it down," Salinas said. "But they were so anxious of bringing the medical school down that they forgot to bring the money with them."
Called the Hidalgo County Healthcare District, the proposed hospital district would collect a new property tax. Officials have said the tax rate would start at 8 cents per $100 of taxable assessed valuation, adding $80 to the annual tax bill for a $100 home. The tax rate could eventually increase to 25 cents per $100.
Tax money collected by the hospital district would primarily fund medical care for the poor. Some money, though, would fuel the new medical school.
"Our medical school, like Austin's and so many others, needs to rely as much as possible on predictable, sustainable revenue, crucial for a medical school's accreditation and success," according to a statement released by Veronica Gonzales, university vice president for governmental and community relations. "A healthcare district would produce that type of revenue whereas reliance on an agreement, such as an MOU, that is not legally binding and that a party could opt out of, would not produce that sustainability. Whether monies come directly from all taxpayers living within the bounds of the healthcare district or from city officials, via an MOU, the source of the funding is still the same - the taxpaying citizens."
Along with Hidalgo County, McAllen, Pharr and Edinburg, Mission initially agreed to support the medical school with annual payments.
When local governments tweaked the agreement, sending the check directly to UTRGV rather than the University of Texas System, Mission withdrew support.
Salinas said Mission would happily fork over $1 million every year if supporters would scrap plans for the hospital district.
The $1 million payment would impose a lower burden on Mission taxpayers than the proposed hospital district property tax.