After Tarrant County voters approved an $800 million bond package to expand JPS Health Network in 2018, nearly four years passed before shovels broke ground. 

Behind the scenes, though, the county hospital was marshaling cash — preparing for its own contribution of $700 million to ensure the expansion. And, with five to eight years of construction left to go, the hospital is in a “strong financial position” to carry the now-$1.5 billion program to completion, board of managers member Steve Montgomery said. 

“For the last few years, we have been working hard to make sure that, when we onboard these projects, it’s not a complete shock to our financial system,” Chief Financial Officer Sharon Clark told the board Dec. 15. 

Initially, the county hospital estimated the entire project, which includes the construction of four medical homes and a psychiatric hospital, would cost $1.2 billion — funded from the $800 million bond package and the hospital’s own coffers. 

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But progress slowed because of uncertainties over property tax legislation in 2019 and the pandemic, outgoing Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley previously told the Report. 

The delay meant a new price tag, driven by inflation, of $1.5 billion. The uptick requires the county hospital’s own contributions to increase. 

To account for the cost, the board agreed Dec. 15 to reallocate more than $445 million to the JPS Future Fund, money set aside to pay for the hospital’s own contributions to the expansion project. The transfer brings the fund to $608 million.

“I feel like in a few years, we’ll be able to get to that $700 million,” Clark told the board.

Most of the transferred funds come from the county hospital’s operating cash, a pool that has grown over the past few years in part because of CARES Act money the hospital received, Clark said in the meeting. 

The decision comes on the heels of other recent milestones for the expansion project. The program’s first groundbreaking, for a new Psychiatric Emergency Center, took place in late October. A second groundbreaking, this time for Medical Home Southwest Tarrant, occurred Dec. 7. Construction for both projects will advance in 2023. 

At its Dec. 13 meeting, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court voted to issue $450 million in bonds, the first of two portions of the $800 million bond package, to JPS to funnel toward construction costs. 

For Roger Fisher, vice chair of the board of managers, the numbers Clark presented spurred confidence. 

“This bond project is obviously way over budget,” he said at the meeting. “But we’re prepared for it.”

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....