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City council approves budget and property tax rate for 2023; what is inside?

EL PASO, Texas — City council approved the more than $1 billion annual budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and along with it, approved the property tax rate that will raise tax bills for El Pasoans. 

The budget provides funding for continued investment in public safety; aggressive investments in city workforce to retain workers and attract new ones as some departments face staffing shortages; and funding for bond projects like the Children’s Museum and Mexican American Cultural Center. 

The property tax rate was set at 86.2 cents for every $100 of property valuation, which is about a 4.5 cent decrease from the prior year. However, even with the largest decrease in the property tax rate in decades, the city will still gain additional property tax revenue this year because of how high property valuations went up around the city. 

The budget and property tax rate did not pass unanimously. Both Representatives Isabel Salcido, District 5, and Claudia Rodriguez, District 6, voted no on the budget and the property tax rate.

Both representatives want to see the tax rate lowered even further.

“El Paso has been tightening up their budgets and the city of El Paso must do the same," Rep. Salcido said.

Property tax rate for 2023

Originally, city staff proposed an 89.9 cent property tax rate for the fiscal year 2023, which was less than a cent decrease from the year prior. In response to the impact of inflation and high gas prices on El Pasoans, city council directed staff to lower the property tax rate to help families.

City staff came back with an 86.2 cent property tax rate, which is about a 5% decrease from the year prior. But a notice, published in the El Paso Times by the city, shows the average taxable value of a home in El Paso increased by 11%. That shows the decrease in the property tax rate was still not enough to offset the increase in home values.

According to the city's notice, the average tax on an average home, including the homestead exemption, was about 6% higher than the year before.

The city could set their tax rate at the no-new-revenue rate, which basically translates to the property rate that would give the city the same amount of revenue from the previous year. The no-new-revenue tax rate is 82.3 cents, about 4 cents lower than the approved rate.

Robert Cortinas, Chief Financial Officer for the city of El Paso, said on ABC-7 Xtra that cutting the additional revenue this year would impact services and city employee wages, such as police officers and firefighters.

City manager Tommy Gonzalez also saying the additional tax revenue is necessary for services.

"The portion is going to a lot of their priorities to fund police, fire, equipment to replace those two departments. Streets. This has millions of dollars for more streets for their community," Gonzalez explained during a news conference after the budget was approved.

The new tax rate will net the city an additional $15.3 million in funding from the previous year, which is about a 7% increase.

Representative Salcido, with Representative Rodriguez seconding, motioned to set the tax rate at the no-new-revenue tax rate. That motion failed 6-2.

Rep. Peter Svarzbein, District 1, voting no the motion, calling this budget a "public safety budget."

“To not support this budget as is, is to defund our police. Is to defund our firefighters. Is to put our communities, our neighborhoods, hour parks, our families in danger. And I will not allow that to happen here," Rep. Svarzbein said during the city council meeting.

Where is your money going?

A majority of the general fund is going toward public safety. According to a city presentation, 71% of the more than $500 million in the general fund is going toward police and fire. There will be two police academies and two fire academies this year in hopes to increase staffing in both departments.

“There has been a significant increase in crime, gun incident rates, and we are waiting to hear from our public safety officers. We all have an obligation today to ensure that our citizens are protected," Rep. Cassandra Hernandez, District 3, said as she defended her position to approve the property tax rate as is.

The city budget also puts a lot of focus on retaining and attracting city employees. This year's budget will increase the minimum wage for city employees by 9% to $12.11. The city also is providing other incentives to make its wages more competitive. Right now, the Animal Services and Aquatics departments are lacking in staffing.

The city government is the fourth-largest employer in El Paso.

Money will also go toward infrastructure, with continuing a street resurfacing program, traffic safety program, neighborhood traffic mitigation program, and street striping and light program.

The budge also includes operating costs for the Children's Museum, Mexican American Cultural Center, and the new penguin exhibit at the El Paso Zoo.

Article Topic Follows: News

Dylan McKim

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