Either The EPISD Or The El Paso Times Fails At Math

An eagle-eyed reader pointed out a discrepancy in the El Paso Times Article “EPISD sends $668.7 million bond to ballot“.  In the article they state the following about the increase in Property Taxes if the EPISD bond passes:

“If voters pass the EPISD measure on Nov. 8, the property tax rate would rise by 18.8 cents to $1.42 per $100 property valuation. Taxpayers with a $138,000 home, the average in the district, would pay an additional $213 annually.”

See the problem?

$138,000/$100 = 1380 (this is to calculate per $100 valuation)

1380 x $1.42 = $1,959.60 (this is how much the property taxes would go up by, not $213)

Even if you adjust it to be 18.8 cents to $1.42 per $1000, the math STILL doesn’t make sense!  In that case, the $138,000 home would be paying an extra $195.96 per year.

We suspect that there is a typo and that it should be per $1000 property valuation.  However, we have NO IDEA how they got to their final number of $213 annually. If these numbers came from the EPISD, quake in fear as they try to manage over 1/2 billion in bond money.




The Facts About The EPISD Bond – Adding It Up

We’re not going to tell you which way to vote on the EPISD $668,695,577 bond (If voters pass the EPISD measure on Nov. 8, the property tax rate would rise by 18.8 cents to $1.42 per $100 property valuation).  Instead, we’re going to give you the FACTS about the bond, what is included and the $$ associated with those items.  That way, YOU can decide whether or not the EPISD bond is worth it.  We pullled all of this information from the Facilities Advisory Board Committee Presentation to Board of Trustees:

Athletics (Total $32,059,000):

  • Turf replace (all high schools), track and tennis courts (8 HS), court/field lighting: $26,059,000
  • Playgrounds, shading, court renovations (outdoor learning environment): $6,000,000.

Safety & Security (Total $750,400):

  • Perimeter Security (fencing/lighting/sensors): $750,400

Technology (Total $16,605,000):

  • Student laptops, Middle School PowerUp Rollout 2017: $4,065,000
  • Teacher laptop refresh through 2019: $2,500,000
  • Neighborhood WiFi: $500,000
  • Network Infrastructure (cabling, controllers, routers, switches, access points): $9,540,000

Transportation (Total $8,472,295):

  • 24 regular and 23 special needs buses (2016- 17): $4,831,061
  • 12 special needs buses (2017-18): $1,268,260
  • 12 regular buses (2018-19): $1,273,386
  • 10 special needs buses (2019-20): $1,099,588

Elementary Schools (Total $24,262,029):

  • Hughey (partial rebuild): $13,160,886
  • Crockett (major renovation): $11,101,143

Middle Schools (Total $74,150,970):

  • Northeast Middle School replacing Bassett: $34,628,127
  • Ross (rebuild): $39,522,843

High Schools (Total $274,623,805):

  • Austin (major renovation): $32,082,302
  • El Paso (major renovation, fine arts addition): $21,084,597
  • Andress (major renovation): $23,307,049
  • Coronado (partial rebuild): $73,885,792
  • Irvin (rebuild Phase 2): $27,849,309
  • Burges (partial rebuild): $56,783,048
  • Jefferson (partial rebuild), Silva (major renovation): $39,631,708

Consolidations (Total $237,772,078):

  • Bradley ES consolidating Fannin ES: $20,761,215
  • Henderson MS PK-8 consolidating Clardy ES: $42,344,101
  • Lincoln PK-8 consolidating Bond ES and Roberts ES: $47,822,384
  • MacArthur PK-8 consolidating Bonham ES: $19,874,484
  • Morehead PK-8 consolidating Johnson ES: $38,043,366
  • Terrace Hills PK-8 consolidating Collins ES: $38,291,809
  • Dowell ES consolidating Schuster ES and Crosby ES: $30,634,719

The bonds would be issued in three phases, EPISD Chief Financial Officer Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria said. This bond is the largest that El Paso has ever voted on, nearly $200 million higher than the $473 million quality of life measure passed in 2012.



Were The Proposed Raises Posted Anywhere? We Can’t Find Them.

We had a discussion last week with a follower about what kind of notice the County Commissioners are required to give to the County BEFORE they approve a raise.  From the Local Government Code, Sec. 152.013. PROCEDURE FOR SETTING AMOUNTS FOR ELECTED OFFICERS, here is what we have:

Before the 10th day before the date of the meeting, the commissioners court must publish in a newspaper of general circulation in the county a notice of: (1) any salaries, expenses, or allowances that are proposed to be increased; and (2) the amount of the proposed increases. (c) Before filing the annual budget with the county clerk, the commissioners court shall give written notice to each elected county and precinct officer of the officer’s salary and personal expenses to be included in the budget.

Both Escobar and Perez acknowledged this in story published by KFOX on the 12th with Escobar stating: “In in this day and age, it’s on Twitter. It’s on Facebook.”.  But, as KFOX pointed out, neither Escobar or Perez had posted anything on Facebook or Twitter about the proposed pay raises and we’re pretty sure Twitter and Facebook do not count as “a newspaper of general circulation.”  In fact, the only reference to publishing in any agenda is from August 1st and it was for publishing notice about the Effective and Rollback Tax Rate Notices. In case you are wondering, click here to see what it SHOULD have looked like (this one is from Waller County).

Does the fact that they didn’t follow the local government code invalidate the raises?  We honestly don’t know, maybe some of you out there do and can let us know.  In our opinion it should, that code was created to ensure that the public gets a chance to know about the raises and weigh-in BEFORE the raises are approved, not after the fact.

Also, Refuse the Juice has some interesting ideas on how the County Commissioners could have sent this out for a vote.


County Commissioners Take Back Raises, But Not Their Own

Today the El Paso County Commissioners decided to take back some of the raises approved last week.  However, the largest raises (and the ones they gave themselves) remain.  

According to KFOX, “The proposed raises for those 11 positions had the smallest increase of all, averaging around $2,000 annually per employee, but the raises for commissioners, constables and the judge are here to stay.”

There is still time, the raises won’t be final until the budget is finalized in September.

Let the County Commissioner’s Know What You Think of Their Raises

Per the (great) request of one of our followers, we are posting contact information (phone numbers, emails and social media accounts that we could find) for all of the County Commissioners and the Count Judge.  Please take a moment before their next meeting on Monday to let them know what YOU think about the raise they just gave themselves with YOUR money:

Veronica Escobar, County Judge:  CountyJudge@epcounty.com, (915) 546-2098, Twitter: @vgescobar, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronica.escobar.3998?fref=ts (Personal), https://www.facebook.com/Veronica-Escobar-for-County-Judge-261548845154/?fref=ts

Carlos Leon, Precinct 1:  Commissioner1@epcounty.com, (915) 546-2014, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/County-Commissioner-Carlos-Leon-155827997861915/?fref=ts

David Stout, Precinct 2:  Commissioner2@epcounty.com, (915) 546-2111, Twitter: @CommStout, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CommissionerDavidStout/?fref=ts

Vincent Perez, Precinct 3:  commissioner3@epcounty.com, (915) 546-2144, Twitter: @VinceMPerez, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vincentmperez?fref=ts

Andrew Haggerty, Precinct 4commissioner4@epcounty.com, (915) 546-2044, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/countycommissioner4/?fref=ts

After all, as we stated in our article, You’re the Boss, they work for you, not the other way around.

In the Best Interest of the Community, County Commissioners Give Themselves a Raise

KVIA reported yesterday that the El Paso County Commissioners voted to give themselves a raise.  The County Commissioners went from $62,000 to $90,000 and the County Judge went from $90,000 to $102,000.  Looks like Brutus at elpasospeak was right when he said they commissioned a study in order to justify raising their pay.

Here is how Commissioner Perez justified the decision:

  1. “We are the lowest paid in Texas, even along border counties”
  2. If salaries don’t rise for elected officials, it will get to a point that the only people who run for office are those who can afford to.
  3. Do we want to limit public service to those individuals who have some source of supplemental income?  We need to encourage a broader group of people to run, not just those who are retired or is individually wealthy.
  4. The rise in salary will also help attract more qualified individuals.
  5. Commissioners deal with a $350 million budget.
  6. The raise is still 70 percent below the market value of the state.

The raise goes into effect on October 1, 2016.  So, you see, the County Commissioners didn’t do it for themselves, they did it for YOU, so that YOU can attract more qualified individuals to run.  Of course, the raise goes into effect before any of the current commissioners leave office, so his reasoning is disingenuous at best.  Perhaps their logic was that, since property taxes are going to go up anyway this year, they might as well get as much money as they can.

The median household income in El Paso is $40,133.  The median for Texas is $53,035. Per Commission Perez’s logic, in order to attract more qualified individuals to El Paso, we must all immediately give ourselves raises, it’s the only logical thing to do.


UMC Bleeding Money

Last year, instead of a loss of $16 million (as they projected), UMC actually ended the year with a $800,000 surplus and they doubled their cash reserves:”cash reserves doubled from what was originally budgeted — from $30 million to $60 million”! Amazingly enough, this information came out just as the UMC Board was deciding what Jim Valenti’s bonus was going to be.  They even raised his performance score so that he would be eligible for a larger bonus.

The news is not as cheery this year, according to UMC, they are looking at  a loss of $15.7 Million for the 2017 fiscal year:


If you look closely, you’ll see that El Paso First and the UMC Foundation are both projecting net positives and it’s the positives from them that are pushing the NEGATIVE from UMC down from $22.1 million to $15.79 million.

So, what has happened?  Did UMC and its CEO paint a more rosy picture so that Jim Valenti would be eligible for a bigger bonus in 2015 and then kick the problem to 2016 for the new CEO to handle?  No doubt, UMC will try some creative ways to make up the deficit.  But, we find it hard to believe that anything other than a property tax increase will cover the projected $15.79 million loss.


Will the EPISD Bond Be Approved By The Trustees?

According to the El Paso Times, A committee of nearly 80 members has finished their “plan that would rebuild, renovate and consolidate schools in the 60,000-student district.” If the EPISD puts the $668.7 million package on the ballot, it would be the 17th largest school bond proposed in Texas and the largest bond proposal ever for El Paso County, according to the Bond Review Board.

The EPISD Trustees will decide next week how much of the bond to approve and whether or not it should be voted on in November.  So far, many of the trustees have indicated that they will support the bond in its entirety:  “The committee has decided that this is the size of the bond that needs to go through,” Trustee Al Velarde said. “For me to change that, I think, would bring into question why we started the committee in the first place.”

How does this affect your property taxes?  Well, first of all, “the bonds would be issued in three phases, EPISD Chief Financial Officer Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria said.”  So, your property taxes would go up gradually (because that has worked so well for what the City and County have been doing with their bonds).  Ultimately, this would raise property taxes by 18.8 cents to $1.42 per $100 valuation. A family owning a $138,000 home would pay an additional $17.72 per month (around $212.64 a year).

So, there you have it.  Most likely the Trustees are going to approve the entire bond next week and then you will get an opportunity to vote on it. Now we just have to wait and see how much the City is going to raise our property taxes, how UMC is going to cover their projected $15.8 million in losses, and what the County is going to include in their budget.