The University Medical Center of El Paso’s request to have the county commissioners post their legally required notification to issue $400 million in non-voter approved certificates of obligation bonds was postponed by the county commissioners until June 27, 2022. As we first reported, UMC held a Board of Managers meeting last Tuesday to ask the county commissioners to post the notice of their intent to issue $400 million in certificates of obligation. The legally required notification starts a 45-day clock for the actual issuance of the public debt.
In today’s meeting, the county commissioners listened to a presentation from UMC officials and discussed the item for about two-and-a-half hours. Central to the discussion was UMC’s argument that time was of the essence. UMC officials are arguing that interest rates are rising and it would be more expensive for the taxpayers to wait before taking action. UMC argued that the community deserves the debt because of the community’s need for medical access.
On the other side of the debate, led by commissioners David Stout and Iliana Holguin was that the amount required the participation of the voters. Holguin pointed out that the issuance of the UMC debt – should commissioners support it – would result in UMC’s total public debt to be “over a billion.” Stout argued that “less than 24-hours is a very short time to digest” the magnitude of UMC’s request. Holguin added that she felt that commissioners were given only “one option” to act on the item.
County judge Ricardo Samaniego suggested that voting on the item today would not necessarily force the commissioners to adopt the public debt. Commissioner Carlos Leon supported voting on the item today.
After the debate, county commissioners took no action on the item. It is expected that the item will brought back on June 27.
There was some discussion, led by Holguin, on issuing voter approved debt (GOs) instead of the certificates of obligations. UMC officials argued there is not enough time to educate the voters on the need this year and thus the earliest the vote can be held would be next year. According to UMC, if a voter-approved measure for the debt were to fail, UMC would be legally prohibited from issuing certificates of obligation for the items outlined today for a period of three-years.
Commissioners tasked UMC officials with preparing public presentations for the community when they come back on the item later this month.
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