Tarrant County voters support $800 million bond package for JPS

Tarrant County voters Tuesday strongly supported a $800 million bond for John Peter Smith Hospital.

It’s the first bond requested for the hospital since 1985.

Dubbed “Tarrant County Hospital District Proposition A” on the ballot, the bond passed with more than 82 percent of the vote.

JPS will add a new behavioral and mental health hospital, four regional medical centers, an outpatient surgery center, increased bed space and expanded cancer treatment, among other improvements. Total upgrades will cost about $1.2 billion, and county officials have said they hope to not have to borrow the full $800 million.

The county called the race in favor of the bond early Tuesday night with only early voting numbers available.

“We continue to build our health infrastructure in an efficient and conservative manner. Our pledge to the voters is that we will do this with no tax rate increase,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said.

Tarrant County administrator G.K. Maenius expects the county and hospital to hit the ground running.

Even before election night, Maenius said county staff were prioritizing projects should the bond pass.

He expects that county can borrow about $200 million fairly quickly with the hospital providing about $10 million. That money will likely go to the community health clinics and getting started on the new mental health facility.

“We’re going to have to address mental health very quickly,” he said.

County officials anticipated the bonds will be issued in multiple series over the next several years. The prices, rates, and maturities of each issuance will remain subject to the approval of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court. Maenius, in an interview with The Star-Telegram earlier this year, emphasized fiscal responsibility and said though $800 million was requested, the county would work to keep the total amount borrowed as low as possible.

“That’s going to be our challenge — to be good stewards of the money,” he said.

The hospital’s expansion carries economic benefits for Tarrant County, County Judge Glen Whitley said.

Not only will new construction bring jobs, but more hospital services will require more medical professionals. Whitley sees JPS as a strong partner with Fort Worth’s new TCU/University of North Texas Health Science Center medical school.

Already, JPS has one of the most robust residency programs for family practice in the country with 200 doctors-in-training, a program that would be more likely to grow with a remodeled JPS. Many of the residents stay in the region where they’re trained, Whitley said.

“Those are high paying jobs.,” he said.

Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce supported the bond package, and Bill Thornton, president & CEO, Tuesday night called the passage of the bond “a healthy vote for all families in Tarrant County.”

“We thank all those who supported the Hospital District bond proposition,” he said in a statement.

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