AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County commissioners approved Central Health’s new $744 million budget Tuesday. The vote comes after back and forth between commissioners and the hospital district’s board of directors.

Commissioners also approved a $0.100692 tax rate per $100 valuation for Central Health. This means the average homeowner will pay $56 more per year on property taxes.

On Sept. 6, the Central Health Board of Managers voted to approve a $744 million budget—an 18.4% increase from the previous budget. The budget and tax rate needed final approvals from Travis County commissioners.

Central Health is Travis County’s hospital district and provides healthcare to low-income people.

“This will allow us to continue to be good stewards in fulfilling our mission in serving those who are low-income residing in Travis County and who absolutely deserve to live the healthiest life possible,” Mike Gesslin, Central Health CEO and president, said before the vote.

Commissioner Brigid Shea abstained from voting on the budget. She asked for more evidence that more health care services are actually getting to the population who needs them. At a meeting before the Tuesday vote, Shea voiced similar concerns.

“I continue to struggle with out of a $744 million budget, $178.5 million of it is dedicated to total health care services,” Shea said. “That’s less than a quarter of your budget.” 

Before the Tuesday vote, commissioners also asked Central Health to spend more money on mental health diversion services and inmate health care.

On Monday, Central Health board members said they are not ready to take on these services without more analysis. Board members did agree to change some budget language and add short-term funding for these services.

Travis County commissioners also voted Tuesday to start quarterly meetings between the Central Health board and Travis County commissioners for more thorough discussions on their budget.

What’s in the budget?

Total expenses were $744.2 million and revenues totaled $336.5 million, according to Central Health.

Expenses include $292.7 million for health care delivery, $28.6 million for administration costs, $380 million for contingency reserves and $35 million for the University of Texas affiliation agreement. The total healthcare services budget is about $181 million, which includes purchased and direct services.

The new budget funds the first year of Central Health’s seven-year healthcare equity plan to close healthcare gaps. It also earmarks $7 million for local mental health authority Integral Care to close its funding gap to hopefully prevent staff cuts.

Other funding includes:

  • $2 million for inmate health, including enrollment and health services, plus an ongoing $1.5 million commitment for diversion pilot services and to fund ongoing patient care
  • $4.7 million for Substance use disorder/medical-assisted treatment purchased services
  • $100,000 for SUD direct services
  • $1.5 million for medical respite
  • $11.7 for street medicine and homeless health
  • $125,000 for planning a Central Texas Latino Family Support Conference
  • $1 million for the Black Men’s Health Clinic through CommUnityCare

The new budget goes into effect Oct. 1.