McALLEN, RGV – Futuro McAllen is hosting a forum on Proposition 1, the Hidalgo County Healthcare District referendum, at the McAllen Convention Center on Oct. 18.

The event is free to attend and open to the public. There will be two speakers for Prop. 1 and two speakers against. Members of the audience will get the chance to ask questions after the four presentations.

Nedra Kinerk
Nedra Kinerk

Futuro, a civic group that works on quality of life issues, has not taken a position on the healthcare district issue. At the forum, one of its board members, David Girault, will give an overview on what a healthcare district does. Doors open at 5:45 pm. The forum, to be held in Room 101, starts at 6:30 pm and ends at 8:00 pm.

“Proposition 1, the Hidalgo County Healthcare District referendum, is a hot issue generating a lot of passion among residents in the county. Futuro plans to illuminate the debate with a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the McAllen Convention Center,” said Nedra Kinerk, president of Futuro McAllen.

Kinerk said the forum will start with an overview of the enabling legislation that gives Hidalgo County voters the opportunity to create a healthcare district. The actual wording of Proposition 1 will also be discussed.

“Davis Rankin will moderate this in-depth discussion on the key aspects of issue, such as access to healthcare, governance and the tax implications. We will have four articulate speakers, two speaking for the proposition: Richard Garcia and Ann Cass, and two against the proposition: Mark Walker and Eddie Cantu. This will be followed by a question period with as many questions as time permits. Questions may be sent during the discussion via a smart phone app,” Kinerk said.

Richard Garcia is mayor of Edinburg. Ann Cass is executive director of Proyecto Azteca and chair of RGV Equal Voice Network’s healthcare committee. Richard Walker is a McAllen-based attorney. Eddie Cantu is Hidalgo County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

News Talk 710 KURV will present a live broadcast of the forum on site and the event will be streamed live on Facebook courtesy of CodeRGV. AACT NOW will have voting information available and both the PRO and CON sides will also have a table for information,” Kinerk said.

Kinerk explained that Futuro meetings are open to the public. “There is no charge. Doors open at 5:45 pm. The forum starts at 6:30 pm and ends at 8:00 pm. The event promises to be a riveting evening about a very important public policy issue and we invite all voters of Hidalgo County to attend.”

Among the sponsors of the forum are Rhodes Enterprises, Inc., Sam Garcia Architect, IBC Bank, Frost Bank, ERO Architects, Kalifa’s, Ford and Abby Sasser, Ernie Williams, FCC-DOC, Code RGV, Upper Valley Mail Services, CopyZone, and the Rio Grande Guardian.

In preparation for the forum, the Rio Grande Guardian sought expert opinion from a healthcare specialist on the pros and cons of a healthcare district. Here is the analysis:

Objective of Creating a Healthcare District

The objective of creating and operationalizing the Hidalgo County Healthcare District is to generate revenue to build a stronger healthcare safety-net for the region, including support for the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and for other healthcare purposes. Revenue for the healthcare district will come from an increase in property taxes on Hidalgo Country residents equal to eight cents for every $100 valuation. Increasing property taxes to support the local healthcare system is a common strategy across Texas and the United States. For example, Travis County voters passed a similar measure to support the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. Though many communities with medical schools have hospital districts, some communities like Tyler and Galveston do not.

The Benefits of Increasing the Property Tax to Support the Medical School

Individuals and organizations in favor of increasing the property tax rate to support the medical school and provision of healthcare argue that the benefits of doing so far outweigh the burdens. Specifically, advocates in favor of this strategy argue that this is the only way that the community will have the financial resources (1) to pay for indigent care, (2) to help generate sufficient federal funding that will encourage physicians and residents to come to and to stay in the Valley (rather than leave), and (3) so that the medical school can conduct innovative research that has the potential to bolster the South Texas economy. Advocates further argue that the success of the medical school will help generate many jobs that would not otherwise come to the Valley.

The Negatives Associated with Increasing the Property Tax to Support the Medical School

Advocates opposing the increase in the property tax argue that individuals tax payers should not be mandated to cover the bill for the local medical school. They further argue that this strategy is risky and will create an inequitable outcome where a limited number of hospital and physician providers win, and taxpayers lose. Many believe that the tax increase will be wasted if the medical students, residents and physicians attending and working at the medical school decide to settle in another part of the state or country. This strategy shifts a significant portion of the risk on to small and large property tax owners in the community.

Hidalgo County voters get to decide whether to create a healthcare district on Nov. 8.

For more information about the Futuro McAllen Proposition 1 Healthcare District Referendum, email Nedra Kinerk at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows McAllen Convention Center, which will be the venue for Futuro McAllen’s Proposition 1 forum.