Adding It All Up -Who Can Raise Your Property Taxes

Did you know that there are currently twenty-eight (28) taxing entities (i.e. 28 entities that can impact your property taxes) in the County of El Paso?  Here they are:

  • City of El Paso
  • Homestead M.U.D. – located in the unincorporated eastside area in the County of El Paso’s regional water and wastewater plan.  The Homestead MUD water distribution system is approximately a square mile and lies within a low density, economically depressed area that is just over a square mile.
  • El Paso I.S.D. – El Paso Independent School District
  • City of Socorro
  • Ysleta I.S.D. – Ysleta Independent School District
  • County of El Paso
  • EP Community College
  • RE Thomason Hospital – Now Named University Medical Center (UMC)
  • Socorro I.S.D. – Socorro Independent School District
  • Clint I.S.D. – Clint Independent School District
  • Fabens I.S.D. – Fabens Independent School District
  • Town of Clint
  • Horizon Regional M.U.D. – Located in east El Paso County, Texas, HRMUD currently serves approximately 9,183 customers over 100,000 acres, primarily in the Horizon City area. As of 2013, El Paso County Water Authority is now Horizon Regional M.U.D.
  • Emergency Services Dist. #1  – The EPCESD#1 is responsible for emergency services, in conjunction with the county contracted  ambulance service, for Horizon City, Agua Dulce, Ascension, Lakeway, and other surrounding communities.
  • Anthony I.S.D. – Anthony Independent School District
  • Town of Anthony
  • Canutillo I.S.D. – Canutillo Independent School District
  • San Elizario I.S.D. – San Elizario Independent School District
  • Tornillo I.S.D. – Tornillo Independent School District
  • Westway Water Dist – Westway is a census-designated place (CDP) in El Paso  county, Texas, United States. The population was 4,188 at the 2010 census.[3] It is part of the El PasoMetropolitan Statistical Area. It is located east of Interstate 10 about 2 miles (3 km) from the New Mexico – Texas state line. The ZIP Code encompassing the CDP area is 79835.
  • Hacienda Del Norte Water Dist
  • Lower Valley Water Authority – The Lower Valley Water District, a MUD in El Paso County, provides water and wastewater services to approximately 8,000 customers.
  • Emergency Services Dist #2 –  The El Paso County Emergency Services District #2 has six fire departments and a Fire Marshal Division:
    • Clint Fire Department
    • Fabens Fire and Rescue
    • Fire Marshal Division
    • Montana Vista Fire and Rescue
    • San Elizario Fire and Rescue
    • Socorro Fire Department
    • West Valley Fire Department
  • Tornillo Water Dist
  • City of Horizon
  • Downtown Mgt. Dist – The El Paso Downtown Management District (DMD) seeks to make DWNTWN El Paso the center of commercial, civic and cultural activity. It is funded by assessment revenue from property within the district and through collaboration on specific projects and programs with the City of El Paso.
  • EPCMUD #1
  • EPCWCI #4

Obviously you aren’t going to being paying to ALL 28 of these entities.  Depending on where you live, you will pay to only one I.S.D, a water district, one Emergency Services District and, presumably, only one City tax.  However, as you have noticed, when these entities are talking about issuing bonds or raising your property taxes to support their initiatives, they ONLY talk about how what THEY are doing is going to impact you. Nowhere do any of them tell you the total amount your property taxes are going to go up. Each entities stresses how little they are asking you for:  “your property taxes are only going to go up by $56 a year, that’s nothing!”  But, adding it all together and it really does become something.  We’re not telling you to vote for or against any particular bond project, but we are asking you to be an informed voter.  Look at the property taxes you are paying now (you can check by clicking here) and be an informed voter.

We realize that there were some of the 28 entities that we did not provide explanations for.  We felt that the cities were self explanatory.  As for the others, it was difficult to determine what they were or what areas they served.  If you happen to know, let us know and provide a source we can reference.

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Your Electric Bill is Going Up…AGAIN

El Paso Electric is finishing up its rate case with the Public Utility Commission of Texas.  Under the agreement, customers with solar panels will NOT have to pay an $11 surcharge (although this will be addresses in the future, so this may change), but everyone else’s rates WILL be going up.  If the agreement is approved, here is how it affects you:

  • An increases of $8.12 a month in the summer and an average increase of $5.47 a month in the winter for residential customers using an average of 625 kilowatt-hours per month in Texas.  This rate increase was already applied to your bill.
  • Small commercial customers would see an average increase of 2.92% per month.
  • Legal fees from the rate case and costs related to the Four Corners Generating Station also would add $2-$3 to residential customers’ bills for 24 months.

So, you’re going to see an additional $2 -$3 on your bill as soon as the compromise is approved. “The average bill will probably go up next month for around $2 or $3 for the next 24 months and it will be on your bill as a surcharge and it will be itemized to legal expenses on the equipment,” said Eddie Gutierrez, the spokesman for El Paso Electric.  Also, you can expect to see your bill go up AGAIN next year:  “We have the Montana Unit Three already online. Unit Four is about to come online and we expect then to file a rate case in both Texas and New Mexico at the beginning of next year,” Gutierrez said.  You can expect the solar panel surcharge fight to resurface during that rate case.

But, not to worry, your politicians are fighting for you:

  • Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said, “I’m glad to see that El Paso Electric and the various interveners in this rate case have reached settlement terms that benefit all ratepayers, including customers with solar installed on their homes. Gone now are proposals for steep surcharges and segregated rate classes for solar customers. El Paso and far West Texas should lead the nation in solar energy development, and has in fact seen an enormous uptick in solar installations in the last year alone. We should encourage this growth, which is good for the electric system, helps create jobs, and provides consumer options. I trust the Commission will authorize the settlement terms without delay.”
  • Veronica Escobar:  “So there’s been a settlement that’s been worked on for quite some time,” County Judge Veronica Escobar said. “And I think you all are very well aware, I think this is very public, that the solar energy folks have – there’s been some points of contention between the utility and those advocates. During this period, there was a compromise that was reached.”

Feel better? If you’re considering installing solar panels, we found this article from EnergySage to be helpful.

The commission will review the settlement as early as Aug. 18, so you can expect your bill to go up soon.

EPISD Bond $527 Million and Counting

EPISD has started determining which projects will go into the bond initiative.  So far, they have agreed on $527.3 million worth.  However, this number could go up as the Facilities Advisory Committee considers more projects on August 2 and presents their final list to the EPISD Board of Trustees on August 9th.  So far, here is what is in it:

  • Merging Bradley and Fannin elementaries at the Bradley site — $20.8 million
  • Closing Clardy Elementary and relocating students to a new prekindergarten through eighth-grade school built at the current Henderson Middle — $42.3 million
  • Closing Bond and Roberts elementaries and relocating students to a pre-K-eight school built at the current Lincoln Middle — $47.8 million
  • Consolidating Bonham Elementary and MacArthur School — $19.9 million
  • Merging Johnson Elementary and Morehead Middle into a pre-K-eight — $38.0 million
  • Merging Schuster, Crosby and Dowell elementaries into a new elementary built at the Dowell site — $30.6 million
  • Merging Collins Elementary and Terrace Hills Middle into a pre-K-eight — $38.3 million
  • Building a new Northeast middle school to replace Bassett Middle — $34.6 million

However, we have to agree with Brutus, nowhere have they stated what they are going to do with the buildings that are closed.  Will the property be sold?  Will it be renovated?  What impact would doing either of those items have on raising or lowering the bond?  It would appear that we are only getting half of the story.

Additionally, school closures are a tricky subject.  Before the meeting began Thursday, two South Central residents, Guillermo Glen and Hilda Villegas, resigned from the committee. The residents said: “With the proposal of closing Beall elementary and sending 450 children to a school that’s in an area that’s high trafficked. As well as now a proposal to include by TxDOT another highway that’s going to put our children even more at risk.” According to KFOX:  Villegas said Beall Parent Community is starting to move forward with legal council. “We went ahead and resigned, and as a community, we’ve gone ahead and consulted lawyers,” Villegas said. “They already signed a contract with us.” If this results in their school staying open, we predict that many other parents will follow suit.  This could result in a very expensive and complicated process.

Then there are the teacher’s raises.  Last month EPISD announced that they were not raising your property taxes but that they were going to give the teachers a 1.5% raise.  HOWEVER, they were hoping that they would be able to give the teachers an even higher raise with the passage of the bond:  “With a bond approval in November, the district said it can consolidate more campuses and increase salaries.”  Before we vote, are they going to tell us how much all of this consolidation will raise teacher’s salaries?

Although EPISD has reported that there is widespread support for the bond (The El Paso Times claims that “60 percent of the 350 respondents somewhat or strongly supported a $600 million bond initiative”), support for a bond decreased when voters learned of the potential tax impact.  What kind of weird survey was it that asked them if they supported the bond without telling them how much it was going to cost them?  Maybe they are going to use that $250,000 of your money that they already approved for marketing to ‘educate’ the public.

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Needs Your Help

Have you ever been worried about something, something so big that it occupied your mind all of the time?  You go to bed worrying about it, you have nightmares about it and you wake up worrying about it.  It could be something to do with your job or school, it could be an argument with a spouse of family member.  But, what if it was how you were going to feed your family? According to El Pasoans Fighting Hunger (EPFH), there are 827,398 people in El Paso of which 25% live below the poverty line ($23,500 income for a family of 4).  Last month, they had a record-breaking distribution, 922,159 pounds of food, that depleted their inventory.

34.8% of those living below the poverty line are children.  Even though EPISD offers a free summer meals program for children under 18, that program ends on July 29th, almost a MONTH before school starts again.  That is a month where families who rely on the free lunches that their children get during the school year AND the free summer meals program will have to find a way to stock their pantries.  A month is a long time to worry.

Now the food bank is asking for your help.  EPFH is the ONLY food bank in El Paso and about 65% of their revenue comes from individual donations. According to KFOX, “Food bank officials say they especially need money donations and food obtained through large food drives by companies and other organizations.”  If you or your organization is interested in doing a food drive, you can get information here.  You can donate money to EPFH by clicking here.

Even if you are unable to donate food or money, please consider donating your time.  Have a High School Student who needs volunteer hours? El Pasoans Fighting For Hunger could also use their help.  You can get more information and download an application here.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

El Pasoans Fighting For Hunger “is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that serves as a clearinghouse to solicit,  inspect, repack and distribute surplus and donated food to a network of agency partners to address the high rates of hunger, poor nutrition, and related health problems of children and adults in El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties.”

UMC Selects New CEO – Goodbye, Jim Valenti

The UMC Board today announced their new CEO:  Jacob Cintron (formerly CEO of Del Sol Medical Center).  The El Paso Inc Whispers over the weekend stated that Jim Valenti had been asked to stay on through September.  However, the press release states that Cintron will begin his new job at UMC on July 25, 2016, so we find it unlikely that Valenti will be around much longer.

We wonder how the dynamic at UMC (and also the dynamic between UMC and the County Commissioner’s Court) is going to change – only time will tell.

 

County Commissioners “Save” You $6 Million

On July 3rd, KVIA joyfully announced that the county had “found a way to get some money back – without taxes.”  The County Commissioners have been refinancing debt and was able to save YOU $6 million, “an additional $6 million that can now be put towards major county projects.”  According to Escobar:  “We are going to be able to address some pretty chronic infrastructure issues that we’ve had and make some improvements and it will not impact the tax rate,” Escobar said

In May of this year, the County Commissioners started talking about issuing $7 million in certificates, specifically to cover infrastructure.  The County Commissioners were proud of themselves because issuing this debt won’t raise the tax rate because it is “equivalent to what the county refinanced and paid off earlier this year.”  However, as we pointed out, this was the County taking money that they had managed to pay down and reissuing it so that they could spend it again.

So, does this new $6 million mean that they won’t have to issue the certificates of obligation?  Is this the $6 million the same as those certificates that they were talking about in May?  Or, are they issuing the certificates of obligation AND refinancing the debt?  All the while lauding that they didn’t raise your property taxes…yet.

City Rep. Limon Crying, But Her Tears Aren’t For You

Every summer El Paso government officials start planning how they are going to spend your money and how much more of it they are going to take away from you.  This past week the City Council began their budgeting process with a series of meetings.  On Thursday, the topic of the  minimum hourly wage of both city and contract employees was discussed.  During the meeting, Rep Lily Limon tearfully plead with City Council to raise the minimum wage to $10 for contract workers.  Rep Noe said Limon’s plan would be bad for taxpayers. “We’re voluntarily, that is artificially, raising the price of a contract and saying ‘okay I’m not going to pay for it. The taxpayers are going to pay for this.’

On the surface, Limon’s plea to raise contract worker’s wages seems like it would be a good thing.  However, by artificially raising their wages (as opposed to letting the free market determine wages), she is going to be spending your money in more than one way.  First, this increase would require the money to come from somewhere.  The Council is already arguing over the budget (with the Mayor vowing to not allow passage of a budget that includes a property tax increase), so we know that there is no excess in the budget to cover these new wages, that means that property taxes WOULD go up.

Secondly, those quality of life projects and road resurfacing would no longer be able to be completed under their current budgets. Assumptions were built into those estimates, assumptions about materials and labor.  We agree with refusethejuice: if the contract worker’s rate goes up, down goes the amount of money available to complete the projects.  That means that either some of the projects would need to be dropped from the list OR another round of property tax hikes would have to take place to cover them.

El Paso has the third highest residential property tax rate of America’s 50 largest cities.  Water and electricity rates went up this year.  EPISD has stated that they aren’t going to raise taxes but they’ll be asking you to vote on a bond that would.  Roads are clogged due to construction.  Where are Limon’s tears for you?  She’s too busy worrying that the $260,000 light display for San Jancinto plaza approved by City Council be just right: “Niland and city Rep. Líly Limón stressed that the contractor will have to create a festive display that’s representative of El Paso’s culture and community.”  How is the contractor going to capture ‘broke’ in lights?