SXSW–do we get anything by being there?

January 18, 2018

We learned the other day that county commissioners and city council have agreed to each spend $50,000 of our money to send a delegation to South by Southwest.

The wikipedia article about South by Southwest reads:

South by Southwest (abbreviated as SXSW and colloquially referred to as South By) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas, United States. It began in 1987, and has continued to grow in both scope and size every year. In 2017, the conference lasted for 10 days with SXSW interactive lasting for five days, music for seven days and film running concurrently for nine days. Comedy and gaming components to the festival are particularly fast-growing.

The city and the county evidently feel that our attendance will be good for the community.  Maybe it will.

The city and county attended last year.


Did our community get any positive benefit from their attendance last year or is this really an opportunity for our employees to have a party?

We deserve better



January 17, 2018

One of the comments the other day made reference to the egg-beaters on I-10 out by the airport.

Aren’t they supposed to twirl?

There is a video of them spinning at the bottom of this web page.

Does anyone know the story here?

We deserve better


Sales tax rules

January 14, 2018

This comes from the Texas legislative council web page:

The sales and use tax (referred to herein as “sales tax”) imposed on most taxable goods and
services consists of a state sales and use tax and a local sales and use tax. The state sales tax rate is
6.25 percent of the sales price of taxable goods and services, and this rate is uniformly applied to
taxable retail transactions throughout the state. Local jurisdictions, including cities, counties, and
some special districts, may also impose a local sales tax after voter approval, but the sum of all local
sales taxes may not exceed two percent anywhere in the state. The maximum sales tax paid on a
taxable item anywhere in Texas is 8.25 percent.

The imposition of a local sales tax must be approved by the voters residing in the jurisdiction in
which the sales tax is to be imposed. Local sales tax revenues can be used for a variety of purposes,
including general fund purposes, property tax relief, health care for the indigent, crime control,
economic development, support of public libraries, emergency services, street maintenance, and
support of public transit. Because of the variety in local sales tax options, not all Texans pay an 8.25
percent sales tax. Some might pay only a 6.75 percent rate; others might pay a 7.75 or 8.0 percent
sales tax rate, depending on where they purchase a taxable item. This variation reflects the different
kinds of services and levels of services approved by the voters to be funded by local sales taxes.
Cities may levy a local sales tax of up to two percent; counties, up to two percent; transit
authorities, up to one percent; and special districts, up to two percent. State law governs the order in
which these taxes take effect, so as not to exceed the two percent cap on the sum of all local sales
taxes at any location in the state.

In our case 1.5% goes to the city general fund and .5% goes to Sun Metro.

We deserve better


City loses refinancing options

January 10, 2018

According to this slide from the recent special presentation to city council the new feral tax law will limit the city’s ability to issue tax refunding bonds:

In prior years the city had the ability to issue tax refunding bonds to purchase old bonds that had unfavorable interest rates.  In short, when the cost of bonds went down the city could buy new bonds and use the money to refund old bonds thus lowering the annual interest costs.

Unfortunately the city often used the opportunity to make the new bonds expire later than the existing bonds.  They were kicking the can down the road so that they did not have to pay off the principal on the original bonds.

Before the new law the city could evidently use this trick whenever they felt that interest rates justified the action.

Evidently under the new law they will only be able to do this within a window 90 days before the published call date for the original bonds.  According to the chart above the call date on bonds is typically 10 years after the bonds were issued.

Bond interest costs fluctuate.  The city will now only be able to use refunding bonds 9 3/4 years after the bonds are issued.  Interest rates might be higher or lower at that time.

This will have a significant impact on the city budget.

The spendthrifts on this and prior councils have put us in a box.

We deserve better


City briefing on increasing bond costs

January 8, 2018

City council is going to have another one of its “special” meetings Monday, January 8, 2018.

The city says they are special because they are not part of the regularly scheduled Tuesday meetings.

We think that they are special because they are not held in the regular city council meeting room and the video tapes of the meetings are seldom posted on the city’s website.  It looks to us that they hold these meetings to do things that the public is not made aware of.

This meeting will consider two special items.  One of them is a briefing for city council members on the impact of the recent tax legislation passed in Washington.

The effect of the legislation will be to make bonds more expensive to El Pasoans.

Remember that the city has yet to issue over $450 million of bonds that were authorized in the 2012 bond election.  This shows the breakdown.

We don’t expect the city will tell us how much this is going to cost us anytime soon.

We deserve better



Better than perfect (at least in their own minds)

January 6, 2018

During the city’s budget presentations for fiscal year 2018 this chart was presented:

Take a look at the 911 calls answered within 15 seconds.

Somehow in 2015 they were able to answer 123.46% of them within 15 seconds.  We aren’t smart enough to figure how they did that other than maybe they answered a bunch of them twice.

In 2016 they wasted less time and only answered 119.47% of them within 15 seconds.

At the time the presentation was made they dropped down to 90.14%

Do they ever read their own stuff?

We deserve better



It’s all good–my foot!

January 3, 2018

Our chamber of commerce published this recently:

Isn’t it a shame that according to the chamber our top industries are:  home health care services, temporary help services, offices of physicians, and supermarkets?

Yet our city council continues to grant tax abatements for retail and entertainment ventures.  If they have to give our money away couldn’t they give it to companies that create jobs that send goods or services?

We deserve better


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