JPS leader defends decision to scrap 4 neighborhood clinics as budget ‘reckoning’

Chris Torres/

JPS Health Network’s decision to cancel plans for four neighborhood clinics, which were part of its bond program approved by voters in 2018, was based in part on budget constraints, a JPS board member said Thursday.

The Star-Telegram reported Tuesday that JPS had quietly scrapped the four clinics, called medical homes, that were intended to expand access to care. Instead, the bond program will fund one clinic that is under construction in the far southwest area of Tarrant County.

“JPS has had to alter our planning relative to our resources to be able to put these programs in place,” board member Trent Petty said during a meeting Thursday, the first time a JPS leader has publicly acknowledged the change in plans.

The medical homes were initially included in the master plan for the health network after multiple groups recommended that they be built. But those groups, Petty said, were not tasked with coming up with a budget and keeping the total construction costs within it.

“They were only charged with defining needs for the future of Tarrant County,” Petty said. “There is obviously a reckoning that has to take place and that reckoning takes place right here…. We are obligated to live within the resources that we are given.”

Petty also noted the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and record inflation since 2018, when the voters approved $800 million in bonds. Hospital leaders initially estimated that all bond projects would cost $1.2 billion. Now, the total budget is estimated to be $1.5 billion, although JPS board members say they think the total cost could be even higher.

Petty acknowledged that voters approved the bond expecting it would fund four medical homes. But, he said, they also approved the bond expecting it would fund other projects: A new hospital on the main campus, a psychiatric emergency center and a central utility plant, among others. Petty said that to accuse the board of not doing what the voters said was “irresponsible and inaccurate” because it didn’t account for the full scope of recommendations from the committees who evaluated the county’s needs, nor the current state of affairs in the county.

No other board members or hospital staff members addressed the decision about the medical homes.

Also Thursday, board members heard an updated presentation on the health network’s 2024 budget, after Tarrant County commissioners rejected the tax rate initially approved by the hospital board and instead passed a rate of 19.45 cents per $100 of assessed value.

That rate would amount to a tax bill of $612.68 for a county resident who owns a $350,000 home with a homestead exemption. The tax rate is projected to bring in about $543.4 million in tax revenue, a decrease of $26 million from the 2023 fiscal year, said Sharon Clark, the chief financial officer for JPS.

JPS has not released a complete copy of its proposed 2024 budget and tax rate. The Star-Telegram has submitted a public records request for the budget.

Clark said county commissioners would likely take a final vote on the JPS budget and tax rate before the hospital’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30.