County Commissioners Court Approves $110 Million Bond

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 5:35pm

El Paso County Commissioners Court approved a $110 million bond on Monday. The money will pay for many improvements including completion of the Tornillo-Guadalupe Port of Entry and upgrades to county buildings.

"You all are doing a great job of taxing the taxpayers out of their homes and I want to congratulate you," said taxpayer Jack Bradford.

Commissioners court got an earful from people already stretched beyond their financial limits. But the deal is done with a 4-1 vote, County commissioners approved the sale of the $110 million bond. Only Commissioner Dan Haggerty voted against it.

"The amount was too much. It's too soon right now to get that kind of money,” said Commissioner Haggerty. “These could have been split. We could have gotten $30 million this year, $40 million next year, $60 million the year after."

Forty-four million would expand and improve the county jail annex in east El Paso, $27 million to finish the Tornillo-Guadalupe Port of Entry and another 3.5 million for new sheriff deputy patrol cars.

The other $36 million would go toward things like fixing the plumbing in the county courthouse, replacing the roof at the sheriff's headquarters and establishing a countywide radio communication system for law enforcement.

“We cannot be irresponsible and kick the can and pretend we don't have these needs or these obligations. And to do so is really putting your head in the sand," said Judge Veronica Escobar.

This bond is a certificates of obligation, meaning it did not need voter approval.

The tax impact would be between 1.7 cents and 1.9 cents per $100 property valuation. That's an increase of $1.96 a month, almost $24 a year for the average homeowner.

Taxpayers and future taxpayers were in the court to express their concerns.

"My mommy and my daddy have no money to pay taxes and it's not funny," said Zoe Gomez.

"El Paso county residents cannot handle paying anymore higher property taxes," said taxpayer Salvador Gomez.

Still Judge Escobar said it's something that needs to be done.

"We would pay a lot more in the long run if we don't do this," said Judge Escobar.

Commissioners also approved the underwriting team selected by the county's financial adviser to sell the bonds.

Judge Escobar said this summer she's going to community and neighborhood meetings around El Paso to make sure taxpayers understand what the bond is for. She believes then more people will support it.

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