McALLEN — City commissioners are set to vote Monday on paying the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine $1 million toward medical research in McAllen.
The money commissioners are scheduled to vote on is specifically for a cancer immunology program in the city “for the limited purposes of faculty support, operations, maintenance, programs and capital needs,” the memorandum of understanding states.
After much debate last year, commissioners ended up honoring its 2014 commitment to UTRGV, which says the city would pay the School of Medicine “up to” $2 million per year. Commissioners paid $1 million last year, its first payment since dispersing $2 million in 2014.
In September, Mayor Jim Darling and Commissioners Aida Ramirez, Omar Quintanilla and Richard Cortez voted in favor of paying UTRGV. Commissioners John Ingram and Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora voted against the budget amendment. Commissioner Veronica Whitacre abstained.
Darling said during the October check presentation that two years of negative sales tax revenues was the reason the city had not paid since 2014. UTRGV has dealt with budget issues of its own — state legislators in May granted the School of Medicine $54.1 million for the next two years, $7.2 million less than the previous biennium.
This money toward medical research is the first step in McAllen’s evolving plan. Darling and the McAllen Economic Development Corporation board, in concert with MEDC President Keith Patridge, have shifted the organization’s mission.
Since its inception, the MEDC has mostly focused on the manufacturing sector. As that area has become established during the past 25 years, while still continuing to grow, Patridge is turning the MEDC’s focus to medical research recruitment to the city. The MEDC will also continue to focus on manufacturing, Patridge said,
If commissioners strike down the $1 million payment on Monday, that could be a blow to this medical research effort.