POSTED: Monday, May 7, 2012 - 6:07pm
UPDATED: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 8:19pm
EL PASO, TX — The El Paso County Commissioners are considering a $110 million in certificates of obligation they said would benefit everyone, by improving county buildings and buying new deputy cars. It would raise taxes for property owners in the county.
Forty-four million of the $110 million bond would expand and improve the county jail annex in east El Paso.
"The growth in our city and we have to get ahead of it and make sure we got the available space that we might need should crime issues arise," said Sheriff Richard Wiles.
Sheriff Wiles said officers have declined to arrest people for minor offenses because the jails are often overcrowded.
"We've got the extra capacity that we could need so we never have to close our jail down like they did 15 to18 years ago. The jail had to close down for lack of space," said Sheriff Wiles.
He said the bond money would save money in the long run.
"It costs about twice as much to house a prisoner downtown than it does at the jail annex," said Sheriff Wiles.
Another $3.5 million would buy new patrol cars for the sheriff's office.
The sheriff said some cars have 200,000 to 300,000 miles on them and in a lot of instances, it's more efficient to buy a new car than to fix an old one.
"We just recently removed from the field 15 1998s and many of those had cracked frames," said Sheriff Wiles.
They're hoping to replace their entire fleet of 225 vehicle over five years.
"It is a safety issue definitely for the deputies and potentially for the public. If they go out of control and hits a citizen and we don't want to see somebody hurt or injured for a few dollars when we can replace the car and get a safe vehicle out there," said Sheriff Wiles.
County Judge Veronica Escobar thinks it's important for the bond to be passed.
"Not one of these items is what I would consider a luxury. They're all necessities and we can continue to ignore the necessity and then have to issue emergency bonds in the future to deal with some of these crisis or we can get them on the front end," said Judge Escobar.
If approved, the tax impact would be between 1.7 cents to 1.9 cents per $100 property valuation.The bond would increase property taxes by $1.96 a month, almost $24 a year for the average homeowner.
"We the taxpayers are gonna be paying for this thing forever. My grandchild is going to pay forever. My grandchild is already in debt to the decisions you make here," said Salvador Gomez. "This court, slowly but surely, is drilling in county taxpayers into an economic grave."
The rest of the bond money would go toward many things like fixing the plumbing in the county courthouse and replacing the roof at the sheriff's headquarters.
The county commissioners will vote on the bond on June 11.