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Voters will consider tax hike for Austin medical school

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In a few weeks voters in Travis County will consider a plan to increase property taxes to help run a proposed medical school.

It's a medical over haul that promises a lot for Austin and Travis County. Thursday morning, a coalition of women's health care advocates gathered to endorse ballot Proposition number 1.

"While it cost to ramp up health care we can learn from other communities that access to housing and health care eventually drives down the cost related to emergency medicines to jail beds and to ems services, and it drives up earned income," said Ann Howard with Austin ECHO.

If Prop 1 is approved, the health district property tax would increase to 5-cents- per $100. For property valued at $214,000, which is about the average amount in Travis County, the annual district tax bill would go to $276. That breaks down to just over $20 a month.

The money raised, about $50 million a year, would help fund operating expenses for a medical school. The new complex near UMC Brackenridge would be operated by the University of Texas and the Seton Healthcare System.

Along with promising a healthy community, supporters say the medical school will be a major economic engine, creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

Juanita Stephens, a financial advisor and member of a women's business support group, believes owners of small companies will be able to tap into an employment ripple effect.

"It broadens your horizon if you can think of anything a hospital needs our want go and provide it that's how it provides jobs here," said Stephens.

With businesses closed and others struggling to stay open, there are those who are opposed to Prop 1 that say it's just the wrong time to pass a new tax.

Many signs have been put up by the Travis County Taxpayer's Union opposing the proposition.

"We're principally against Prop1 because it's an expensive solution in search of a problem," said Roger Falk with the group.

Falk and his group worry this tax proposal is just one of many that will over load the community.

"And you know these things are unsustainable we're taxing people out of their homes, particularly the poor and people on fixed incomes," said Flak.

Falk doesn't believe the tax hike is needed especially since the money that will be raised will not go toward the construction of the med school.

The debate will soon be settled. Voters start going to the polls October 22.

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