September 8, 2023
Millions in new investments as hospital district repairs safety net; Travis County commissioners to consider Sept 12 and 19
AUSTIN – The Central Health Board of Managers on Sept. 6 voted to approve a $744 million annual budget for fiscal year 2024, which begins Oct. 1. Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district, goes to the Travis County Commissioners Court on Sept. 12 and 19 for final approval of its budget and tax rate, as required by state law.
The FY 2024 Central Health budget, which represents an 18.4 percent overall increase from FY 2023 spending levels, is built on a total ad valorem tax rate of 10.0692 cents per $100 valuation, a 0.2-cent increase over the current rate.
This rate translates into a 6.5% increase in Central Health’s revenue from year to year, which is below the 8% threshold set under state law for hospital districts. The owner of a home with the average taxable homestead value can expect to pay about $479 in taxes to Central Health in FY 2024, an increase of roughly $56 from the prior year.
“Central Health is prepared to meet the increasing demands of our community through effective planning, responsible financial management, and a strategic outlook,” said Dr. Charles Bell, chair of the Central Health Board of Managers. “The budget allocation enables us to respond to unforeseen emergencies, establish needed healthcare services, and enhance existing ones. Meeting these expectations aligns with Central Health’s commitment to our community.””
The 18% increase in FY 2024 includes the first full year of implementation of Central Health’s Healthcare Equity Plan, adopted by the Board of Managers in February 2022 and then refined over the subsequent 18 months to include more than 150 separate projects to repair and strengthen the local healthcare safety net. In total, Central Health expects to add approximately $800 million to its annual operating costs between FY 2024 and FY 2030.
This will fund the Equity Plan’s significant expansion of healthcare access and delivery to Travis County residents with low income (below 200% of the federal poverty level, or about $60,000 for a family of four). Central Health forecasts that its reserves, which the district has been building to prepare for this expansion, can support this investment, along with incremental adjustments to the tax rate between now and 2030.
Several amendments to the hospital district’s proposed spending plan were adopted by the board. These include:
- Integral Care: An amendment by Manager Ann Kitchen moved $7 million (and authorizes going above that number under certain circumstances) from year-end reserves to help close funding gaps at Integral Care, Austin and Travis County’s local mental health authority and the region’s largest behavioral health provider. Kitchen noted that Integral Care’s budget shortfalls, and the agency’s proposed layoffs, could lead to gaps in services that would take a long time to restore and that come at a great human cost to patients. While it’s not certain that IC will face such challenges in the future, “having conversations regarding the stability of the services needed by our patients is critical,” said Central Health’s President and CEO Mike Geeslin. The amendment increases Central Health’s planned spending on behavioral health services delivered by IC to $20.7 million.
- Central Texas Latino Family Support Conference: An amendment by Board Secretary Cynthia Valadez added $125,000 to the Central Health budget for planning an event serving bilingual Latino and other non-English-speaking Travis County residents, focusing on mental health needs and healthcare disparities and modeled after a similar event for African-American families that’s been held in Austin for more than two decades.
- Black Men’s Health Clinic: An amendment by Manager Shannon Jones added up to $500,000 to Central Health funding through CommUnityCare for the BMHC, which opened in 2023. This funding would allow for additional clinical staffing to serve men of color, who are at greater risk for chronic life-altering conditions such as hypertension and colorectal cancer.
Details of Central Health’s fiscal 2024 budget can be found at centralhealth.net.