Taxpayers in the Gainesville Hospital district will get a bit of a break this year after the North Texas Medical Center board of directors set the tax rate at .0867 per $100 valuation, a rate that reflects a decrease of a quarter of a cent.

There were no public comments during the 10 a.m. Friday meeting during which the board of directors had five proposals from which to choose a tax rate for fiscal year 2011.

NTMC Chief Financial Officer Kelly Hayes reminded board members that last year’s tax rate was .0892.

She admitted that some of the terms used during the hearing can be confusing for those who don’t deal with the facility’s budget on a daily basis.

M&O refers to the hospital’s maintenance and operations fund. The M&O fund is used to pay for the hospital’s indigent care program.

So far this year, NTMC has spent approximately $500,000 on medical services for those who qualify for the program, Hayes noted, adding that the money in the indigent care fund is not used for any of the hospital’s other expenses.

She also noted that the hospital district is required to maintain its own indigent care program.

Patients who receive these free health services must qualify under federal poverty guidelines and it’s difficult to predict how much of the money will be used each year.

Last year, the district collected “between $800,000 and $900,000 for indigent care,” she said.

The board sets aside money for the fund each year and is currently in no danger of running out of money.

But that wasn’t always the case, Hayes said.

“About three years ago that did happen, where we ran out of money in our indigent fund, and we had to suspend payments to the physicians... We really don’t want to do that again. Our physicians take these patients on, and they need to be paid for what they do,” she said.

Board members also discussed the I&S (interest and sinking fund). An I&S is a fund created to pay interest on outstanding bonds.

The hospital is paying on bonds issued after a 2002 bond election for construction of the new facility.

Both Hayes and board president Gloria Parrish agreed they’d like to keep taxes on an even keel and avoid rate fluctations which could cause dramatic shifts in resident’s taxes.

“People remember when (taxes) go up, they don’t remember when they go down,” Parrish said.

The new rate is based on a 2010 projected adjusted tax base of $2,367,543,774.

While entities in other cities are raising property taxes, NTMC hasn’t had to do that.

“I can say we have lowered (the tax rate) since 2006, by 4.5 cents,” Hayes.

Board member Ken Arterbury pointed out that there’s still more than a month before the new fiscal year kicks in.

The board is expected to adopt the new tax rate at the NTMC board meeting set for Sept. 20.