One speaks out against ECHD tax rate

September 21, 2018

Only one Ector County resident showed up to speak at the second and final public hearing Thursday for Ector County Hospital District’s proposed tax rate.

West Odessa resident Elaine Gollaher told the board that looking around, there is a hotel building going up and lots of improvements going on, but her concern is that all of those projects are being put on the public — especially those who are retired.

Gollaher said there are people who save money all year just to pay property taxes.

“The founding fathers stood up against excessive taxes and so must the people of this town stand up against these kinds of taxes,” she said, adding that there are several increases across town. “We don’t need a monster hotel that’s going up downtown … you must learn to live within your budget.”

Gollaher told board members if the money was already in the budget then go ahead and approve it, but if it isn’t, “don’t bother asking the poor people to come up with it because they’re barely surviving as it is.”

After the public hearing, Medical Center Health System CFO Robert Abernethy said the hospital district doesn’t have anything to do with the hotel and convention center going up in downtown Odessa and that the proposed tax rate is actually less this year than it was last year.

The Ector County Hospital District board approved a proposed effective rate of $0.112720 per $100 valuation. The current tax rate is $0.117920 per $100 valuation. It is the district’s first decrease in the ad valorem tax rate since 2014.

“The rate is actually going down this year with the property valuations going up,” Abernethy said.

The average homeowners tax would increase from $170.91 to $171.28 annually, or about a 37-cent increase.

Asked why the district did not lower the proposed tax rate even more due to the higher appraisals, Abernethy said the hospital district is still facing a $7.5 million deficit budget next year, — something other governmental entities aren’t having to deal with.

“With that deficit budget we could not afford to, as much as we’d like to, reduce it any further than what the effective rate was,” he said.

The hospital board will meet again at noon Sept. 28 in the board room for a final vote on the proposed ad valorem tax rate and the fiscal year 2019 budget. There will also be a public hearing for the budget during the meeting prior to a final vote on it.

No residents attended the first public hearing for the proposed tax rate.

All board members were present at the Thursday meeting.

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