Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tarrant County officials seek to cut two tax rates

By AMAN BATHEJA - Star-Telegram staff writer - Sat, Jun. 30, 2007
Most Tarrant County commissioners say they want to cut taxes for both the county and the Tarrant County Hospital District for next year.

County Judge Glen Whitley and Commissioners Roy Brooks, Gary Fickes and J.D. Johnson signaled plans to reduce taxes more than last year, when commissioners cut the county rate by one-tenth of a cent and left unchanged the rate for the hospital district, which operates the JPS Health Network.

Commissioner Marti VanRavenswaay did not return a call seeking comment.

The county tax rate is now 27.15 cents per $100 of assessed value. The hospital district tax rate is 23.5397 cents.

"I will not vote for a budget that does not include a tax rate decrease for the county taxes or the hospital district," Fickes said. "I'm not sure if we'll get to a penny, but I'd like to see a penny [reduction] for both."

Brooks said he hopes to approve at least a half-cent cut in the county rate and up to a full cent off the hospital district rate.

"We're approaching this budget with an eye toward doing the most with the least and being able to give something back in terms of tax relief to the taxpayer," Brooks said.

Johnson said he expected rising property values to allow the county's budget to grow while still cutting taxes.

For the owner of a $100,000 home, the 1-cent drop would mean $10 off a county tax bill of $271.50 and $10 off a hospital district tax bill of $235.40.

Property owners would not necessarily pay less in taxes, however, because many have seen increases in their property values.

Commissioners said they also plan to look closely at the hospital district's budget for next year. At the commissioners' meeting Tuesday, Whitley took the unusual step of asking for the JPS board to meet with commissioners in July before JPS approves its budget.

"I would like to get a sense of their priorities," Whitley said.

In the past year, the hospital district has drawn increasing criticism for amassing a multimillion-dollar surplus while not expanding services for poor and uninsured patients.

"We just have a lot of questions what is going on out there," Johnson said. "Going through their budget in detail and looking at it the same time that the board looks at it would be a wise idea."

A call to Robert Earley, JPS' senior vice president of public affairs and advocacy, was not returned Friday.

See Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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