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County commissioners approve hospital tax break, hear update on workforce development

Bexar County Courthouse
Brian Kirkpatrick
Bexar County Courthouse

Bexar County commissioners on Tuesday approved a budget in excess of $3 billion for University Health and a property tax break to go along with it.

University Health officials recommended commissioners approve a 20% homestead tax exemption for hospital district taxpayers to be applied for the 2024 tax year.

The county hospital system said its bottom line won't be adversely affected by doing so, since less than 18% of its budget relies on property taxes.

UH reports some problems from the COVID-19 pandemic still linger, such as staffing shortages, increased wage costs, and supply chain issues.

In its budget report, UH also touted the opening this year of its new Women and Children's Hospital and next year's groundbreaking of community hospitals near Retama Park and Texas-AM San Antonio.

Ground should also be broken in 2024 for two other public health facilities on the South Side and at I-10 East and East Houston on the East Side.

In other action, commissioners heard an update on progress on a county workforce development center at Brooks to produce workers for advanced manufacturing, including the local vehicle industry.

County Judge Peter Sakai urged county staffers to provide the commissioners court with more frequent updates on the proposed 37,000 square feet center after some recent confusion on its progress. One estimate pegged its cost at nearly $18 million.

Sakai said he wants more updates to be more transparent to taxpayers.

He also agreed with Commissioners Tommy Calvert and Grant Moody, who both expressed concern over coordination between the county and other stakeholders in the development of the proposed center and the potential for overlapping redundancies.

Those stakeholders include local manufacturers, colleges, and existing training programs, like the Texas Federation for Advanced Manufacturing.

Moody, the lone Republican on the court, said he wanted to see more involvement by those stakeholders.

"I think it's important that we do have these conversations with everyone else who's planning this space and really understand what gap we're filling and how we can partner going forward, so there's a comprehensive strategy, not just a Bexar County strategy." he said.

Commissioners also:

  • Approved an agreement with Google Fiber Texas to install and maintain a fiber optic network in county public rights of way. It will start with some unincorporated areas of the county in Precincts 1, 2, and 4.
  • Approved a new step payment plan for county constables, described as a "compromise" between the court and the constables. The step plan includes an additional $2,000 for each career step reached and $175 shift differential pay.
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