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El Paso city reps pitch last-minute budget requests, baby changing stations, municipal IDs

El Paso City Council is getting closer to passing a 2017-2018 budget.

At Monday’s special City Council meeting, representatives decided they would take a final vote on a tax rate of 0.803 at Tuesday’s meeting.

That means a little more than 80 cents for every $100 dollars of property value. That number is up from 0.759 last year.

The rollback rate this year is 0.812. If the city had hit that number, voters could have decided to roll it back.

Monday was the last day representatives could pitch projects they wanted to add to the budget.

Claudia Ordaz succeeded in securing $168,000 to add 350 baby changing stations to men’s and women’s restrooms in the city.

The city also added $250,000 to fund efforts to make streets compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The total is now $500,000 for fiscal year 2018.

An addition of $103,000 was made to improve a pedestrian path on Brown Street near Rim Road. Rep. Peter Svarzbein said the area has been dangerous for decades. He said a woman was recently hospitalized after falling down a 100-foot cliff.

“It’s my responsibility to my constituents if there is a clear issue and there are news reports of people falling down a 100-foot cliff, that I’m going to bring it up,” Svarzbein said.

A few people who walk in the area expressed their concerns to the council.

“I have had to jump the guardrail. I have had to wave my hands and scream at cars to warn them that I am going up the road. I’ve seen other mothers doing the same. I’ve seen mothers rolling two deep with two strollers just to take up the lane and make sure they are OK. My dog has almost been hit several times walking here,” one woman said.

One item that was not added was a request for $320,000 in a budget match with El Paso County to fund municipal ID cards.

Rep. Alexsandra Annello placed the item on the agenda

Mayor Dee Margo was concerned the municipal IDs would paint the city of El Paso as a “Sanctuary City.”
“I have spoken with the governor’s office and I have great concern that we are talking about spending over $300,000 with potential of jeopardizing millions of dollars in grants that are already in place but not completely funded. That is my biggest concern related to this. Irrespective of the fact that I am against SB4 and the way it is structured,” Margo said.

Advocate Robert Heyman, with the Border Network for Human Rights, believes people who don’t have IDs should have a way to get them.

“I was raised that you don’t give in to bullies. The mayor today gave in to a bully. That is disappointing,” Heyman said.

Tuesday’s City Council meeting begins at 8 a.m. City Hall is located at 300 N Campbell Street in El Paso.

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