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Tarrant commissioners OK tax cuts

FORT WORTH -- Property owners will get a 1/4-cent tax rate cut next year on both their Tarrant County and public hospital district bills after county commissioners on Tuesday approved the reductions and budgets for 2008-09.

Commissioners praised the Tarrant County Hospital District board and interim administrative leadership for putting together a $618 million budget that adds staff to improve accessibility to its clinics and puts more money toward patient care.

Commissioners have publicly criticized surpluses accumulated in recent year by the taxpayer-supported hospital district, which does business as the JPS Health Network.

“This budget represents one of the first steps in improving access,” Commissioner Roy C. Brooks said.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said additional changes could be recommended by two committees he formed last year to study patient access issues at JPS.

Commissioners did not comment Tuesday on their own budget, but Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius said that the county’s tax rate is among the lowest for Texas’ largest counties.

Tarrant County’s tax rate

The tax rate for Tarrant County in 2008 will be reduced from 26.65 cents to 26.40 cents per $100 of assessed value, meaning the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $264 to the county. The 1/4-cent reduction marks the third-straight year that commissioners cut the tax rate.

Tarrant County budget

Commissioners approved the county’s $464 million budget, which will add 49 new positions and allow for merit raises for most employees. The county continues to issue debt and work on projects approved by voters in the 2006 bond package, which includes a new jail, new medical examiner facilities and a new civil courts building.

JPS tax rate

Following the recommendation of the JPS board, commissioners approved a 1/4-cent cut in the hospital district’s tax rate. The new rate of 22.7 cents per $100 of assessed value means the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $227.

JPS budget

The $618 million budget, a 7.7 percent increase from 2007-08, forecasts a $52 million surplus before capital expenditures but recommends spending most of that pot on patient care. JPS will add about 200 support staffers, at least eight physicians and provide raises for some employees. Next year’s budget also allows for lower copays for generic prescription drugs.