Opposition to the recently approved UT Austin medical school may soon ensue if plans to demolish an Austin golf course and raise local taxes are not revised.
An Austin grassroots organization known as Save Muny has been working since 2008 to halt plans by the UT System Board of Regents to demolish the Lions Municipal Golf Course to use for economic development. In 2011 the UT System Board of Regents voted to end its lease, which expires in 2019, of the course to the City of Austin and demolish the land to construct businesses and housing.
This is how Save Muny originally became interested in UT’s financial issues, said Bob Ozer, Save Muny leader and 1977 UT Law alumnus.
“We became aware of the problems the University is facing, especially with recent budget cuts and the funding of the new UT Austin medical school,” he said.
On May 3, the UT System Board of Regents voted to fund the new UT Austin medical school with, in part, a $35 million annual tax increase to the public. In response, members of Save Muny have decided to expand their efforts and may even oppose the building of the medical school altogether if funding issues over the golf course and tax hike cannot not be resolved, Ozer said.
“We see the decision as unfair,” he said. “I think that people will have to make up their own minds, but it would be very difficult for me to say that I’m going to pay higher taxes to the University that’s going to come in and mess up my neighborhood at this point.”
State senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said the medical school will be an immense asset to Austin, and that the amount the public is being asked to pay for the school is very small in comparison to its overall cost.
“All told, this effort stands to create about 15,000 new jobs and roughly $2 billion a year in economic activity,” he said. “It will increase the number of doctors in the region. It also will mean Central Texans won’t have to travel to faraway cities for care they want and need.”
Joseph Lee, 2012 UT alumnus and incoming medical student, said he sees great value in the UT Austin medical school and believes efforts to fund it will be worth the increase.
“It seems to be an easy choice speaking as a student from the University,” he said. “I would have been thrilled to stay in Austin for medical school, and now UT will have the full graduate school experience.”