Hitting the wall

It looks like some things are going to have to change.  The Times reported yesterday that next year’s city budget could grow by $24.2 million unless some expenses are dropped.

Property tax near maximum

The city raised about $149 million in property taxes last year.  The tax rate, which includes operations as well as debt service, was at $.6997 per hundred.  Council could raise the tax rate but if they raise the operations portion more than 8% we can ask for a rollback election.  An 8% increase would bring us to $.7557 per hundred and provide an additional $11 million.

We would still be $13 million short.  If council decided to raise the tax rate to the maximum that Texas will allow we would be at $.80 per hundred.  That would provide $170 million if the voters did not vote it down in a rollback election.  Even the maximum would only raise $21 million, leaving them $3.2 million short.

More revenue?

We might see an increase in fees like the franchise fee that the city imposed on the water utility this year.  We can expect to see members of council offering up all sorts of ways to soak the taxpayers.  Trash collection rates and bridge rates could go up.  The might even try to  impose a speaker’s fee if you wish to speak before city council.

Less expense?

It is possible that we might see layoffs but most of us doubt that would happen.  We might see cutbacks in spending like the 5% of capital spending that we allocate to public art.  Services might be cut.

They might even vote to stop the quality of life projects.  We voted to build the facilities but the city will have to come up with even more money to operate and maintain them.

Whatever happens, this is not going to be pretty.

It looks like the real “crazies” were the ones on council.

We deserve better



7 Responses to Hitting the wall

  1. Reality Checker says:

    When it comes to promoting ballparks and quality of life, the El Paso Times and El Paso Inc love reporting how El Paso how El Paso is following tried and true concepts of other cities like Oklahoma City. They present them to paint a picture of what our future holds.

    Maybe they should starting looking at how El Paso’s current financial situation mirrors that of Stockton, California, which went on a spending and borrowing binge including building a new minor league ballpark, after which they filed for bankruptcy protection.

    When you read the Stockton stories they sound eerily familiar. Lots of debt incurred for high-priced, quality of life projects to try to appeal to new residents, a new baseball stadium and multi-purpose arena, rising property values, lots of real estate development, commitments to public sector employees, delusions of grandeur, revenue not keeping up with spending, credit ratings slashed, etc. It’s all part of the Stockton story. Sound familiar? Just swap out the names of the cities.

    Mountainstar, too, should read up on Stockton. After Stockton went bankrupt, the minor league ball team saw it’s $400,000 annual subsidy reduced. Mountainstar’s subsidy is more than twice that of the Stockton team.

    City employees should also rethink their futures. Stockton employees lost parts of their pensions, specifically healthcare benefits that had been promised. Stockton’s baseball team only lost 25% of its subsidy, so the taxpayers and city employees took bigger hits than the owners of the ball club. Funny how that works, isn’t it.


  2. Haiduc says:

    Sooner or later YOU run out of other peoples money…


  3. Curious says:

    You’ll have to get in line to move. I’m seeing lots of For Sale signs in front of homes. I wonder how the current pre-owned home inventory compares to the last couple of years.


  4. balmorhea says:

    Is it allowable under the law to hold a vote to stop the quality of life projects (other than the baseball stadium of course. That’s already built because the city wasn’t in charge of building it.)? Does anyone know?


  5. homeowner777 says:

    A $10.00 Special Tax on Baseball tickets should do it.
    Let the people that INSISTED on baseball downtown pay for the shortfalls, since having to MOVE all of the city offices and relocate while we had ALREADY HAD a City Hall that was paid for by Property Taxes of past.
    Destroyed City Buildings is a waste of Property Taxes that have been already “Paid”.
    What’s not included in the COST of the baseball stadium is the buying and renting of additional properties for the city departments. THAT causes shortfalls. There it is.
    Here it is. . . . . shortfalls.
    MY parents already sweated, worked extra hours to pay property taxes for the City Hall that was destroyed.


  6. The entire City financial situation appears to be getting worse and worse all the time. One wonders why Council decided we should live so far beyond our means. Those things that are most essential have been ignored while they chase rainbows with their downtown development/expansion/growth with monies we simply do not have. We are already burdened with one of the highest property tax rates in the country, especially for a city of our size, with a socio-economic level as low as we have. Now, it begins to look as if the greedy Council is going to look at placing new burdens on those of us least able to pay higher and higher taxes (Niland crying about the – what is it? – 2.8 million lost because of exemptions for disabled and elderly). Guess what? If they do not tighten those purse strings, and remember just who has to pay their exorbitant bills, this is one retiree who will begin to look elsewhere for a more peaceful – not to mention affordable – retirement.


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