El Paso County, Texas commissioners last week approved a request for $152 million of certificates of obligation for new clinics and upgrades planned by the county hospital district.

El Paso County Hospital District will use the proceeds to renovate three floors at University Medical Center and build three clinics in El Paso. The district had asked for $162 million in debt but now will use $10 million of its own funds for land acquisition.

The new debt will require an increase in the district’s property tax rate of 2 cents to the current rate of 19.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The bonds are expected to be sold by the end of April. The district is also expected to issue $110 million to refund bonds issued in 2005.

James Valenti, president and CEO of El Paso University Medical Center, praised the commissioners for approving the debt despite opposition from several groups, including the city’s medical society and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The vote came after six hours of debate and discussion.

“The court took a courageous step, a courageous vote,” Valenti said. “This is good for El Paso and we’ll not let El Paso down.”

Design work will begin soon, he said, with construction being completed by the end of 2015.

The hospital district’s $250 million of outstanding general obligation debt is rated AA by Fitch Ratings and AA-minus by Standard & Poor’s.

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