EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Some El Paso organizations started a petition drive to require University Medical Center to place its recent $345 million proposal on a ballot for voter approval.

As KTSM previously reported, the El Paso hospital district leaders, which includes UMC, are asking for about $345.7 million dollars worth of certificates of obligation for hospital upgrades.

Certificates of obligation do not require voter approval, only the majority of county commissioner approval, whereas a general obligation bond, would go to a ballot for voter approval.

During the June Commissioner’s Court meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 to start the process of approving the COs and issuing the debt.

The non-profit group, the LIBRE Initiative, has started a petition, collecting signatures to put this proposal on a ballot for voters.

Karla Sierra, the group’s grassroots engagement director, told KTSM they are concerned for the taxpayers and what this could mean if approved.

“We wanted to gather our community together to make sure they are aware of what is going on,” Sierra said.

Ryan Mielke, the spokesperson for UMC, told KTSM it is the hospital district’s priority to ensure the community has the facts about the proposal.

“Our goal is to ensure we have the capacity to address our community’s current healthcare needs. The proposal will increase overall property taxes by less than 2%, and not the 22% that sponsors of the petitions are using to garner signatures,” Mielke said in an email statement.

UMC created a website for the community to learn about the proposal in both English and Spanish.

According to Sierra, the organization needs a minimum of 25,000 signatures to submit to the El Paso County Clerk’s Office by September 12, which is when commissioners are expected to make a final vote on the proposal.

“El Paso is already one of the highest-taxed cities not in the state but in the country so that is a huge concern for us,” Sierra said. “But also because of the lack of transparency, we want to be able to rally the community together on this one issue and give us the opportunity to decide how our taxes are spent.”

UMC leaders have held several public meetings across different precincts of the county to present their proposals to taxpayers and take questions.

The $345 million bond proposal seeks to upgrade several facilities, such as expanding UMC’s intensive care unit, adding operating rooms, a neighborhood clinic in Central El Paso, upgrades to the El Paso Children’s Hospital and adding a cancer center.

UMC leaders told commissioners if approved, the certificates of obligation would raise property taxes by about 5.7 cents per $100 of property valuation to the hospital’s tax rate between 2023 and 2033. From 2034 to 2045, the rate would decrease to 2.9 cents per $100 of valuation.

The hospital’s current tax rate is 25.8 cents per $100 of valuation. 

The hospital district’s proposal presentation is listed below:

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