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?