Update: A city spokesperson tells ABC-7 that last budget session, City Council approved the 40% budget increase for district offices. "The City Council voted and approved adding funding for an additional full-time employee to each Council District office, increasing the budget," city spokesperson Laura Cruz-Acosta told ABC-7 in a statement.
Cruz-Acosta also explains that the "special revenue" pot went towards the district offices' discretionary funds. She says each council district also receives $10,000 a year in overall discretionary funds. "The expenditure of discretionary fund must serve a municipal purpose," Cruz-Acosta explained. "Council Members will typically work with the City Attorney’s Office to make sure the expenditure serves a municipal purpose."
EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- ABC-7 is looking into the money allocated to each El Paso city council representative each fiscal year.
According to the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Book, each district's representative's office is allocated $224,769 from the general fund. The budget's Mission Statement states "as outlined in the city charter, the Mayor and Council may [use this money to] act to accomplish any lawful purpose for the 'advancement of the interest, welfare, health, morals, comfort, safety and convenience of the City and its inhabitants.'" The mayor also gets a yearly budget, however, it is significantly lower than the funding provided to city representatives.
After finding the yearly allocation provided to each district office, ABC-7 then compared the amount for Fiscal Year 2023 to the amounts for each fiscal year back to 2019. We found that the allocation jumped 40% from 2022 ($160,492) to 2023. Look at the table below to see comparisons to previous years.
- FY 2019 - $125,184
- FY 2020 - $140,409 (a 12.16% increase)
- FY 2021 - $152,613 (8.69% increase)
- FY 2022 - $160,492 (5.16% increase)
- FY 2023 - $224,769 (40% increase)
The largest percentage increase in recent years happened between 2022 and 2023.
Also, a separate fund called "Special Revenue" was implemented starting two years ago. Each district has been receiving $10,000 a year from that fund. It is unclear what that money is for.
ABC-7 also found the rules for travel expenditures for city council members, spending reporting requirements, and rules for City Council Special Projects and Discretionary Funds accounts.
ABC-7 continues to investigate the total amount of money allocated to each district office each year, the rules for those expenditures, and the type of purchases council members and their staffers are allowed to make out of their discretionary funds.
This discussion arose after controversy surrounding past use of gas and purchasing cards by current and former council members. Also, ABC-7 found exiting City Manager Tommy Gonzalez's office charged $10,000 to his purchasing card in the first five months of 2023.