FULL STORY: The Battle's Not Over for El Paso County
POSTED: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 5:26pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 5:01pm
Cuts, cuts, and more cuts - that's what commissioners expect for the county again this year.
Many social programs that were in the clear last year could end up back on the chopping block.
"We chopped, we Julianned, we sliced and diced, and there's a lot more of that that we're going to do this year," said commissioner Daniel Haggerty.
A new year, with the same problems.
"We're spending money on parks, we're spending money on the coliseum, we're spending money on the nutrition program," Haggerty said, describing programs that the county funds although they are not state-mandated to.
"The big thing that I'm looking at is the Sheriff's budget which will increase by $5 million; where am I going to get that?" he asked.
Haggerty says the contract with the Sheriff's department was drafted at a time where money wasn't so tight. He says they may not be able to keep the same number of Sheriff's deputies, even after last year's cuts.
"We didn't eliminate the opportunity to eliminate 22 employees again this year," Haggerty said. "I'm not threatening that, but that is a huge hit."
Haggerty strongly opposes raising taxes to cover the deficit; something that commissioner's court newcomer Sergio Lewis agrees with.
"A tax height ought to be the last thing, as a desperate measure," Lewis said. He expects the state legislature to throw some money out because of the dangerous situation across the border.
"Having to provide relief to our sister city, we're having to provide medical care," Lewis said.
But Haggerty is less optimistic.
"State legislators, they don't care about El Paso anymore than they care about Snake's Navel, Texas," Haggerty said.
There may be a silver lining, though. The county has come up with a system to find people who owe the county money. That program generated over $90,000 last month. But that still leaves millions to make up for - a job that Haggerty isn't looking forward to.
"This is one of the craziest jobs in the world; it's a tough job," he said.