City Council adopts reduced operating budget and same property tax rate as last year

Local

EL PASO, Texas The El Paso City Council on Tuesday adopted a $984.7 million budget, while maintaining the same tax rate as the year before.

City Council adopted the budget during their first in-person meeting in nearly five months, as they were required to hold a public meeting on the proposed tax rate. The meeting was held at the El Paso Convention Center.

The reduced operating budget and tax rate for Fiscal Year 2021 focuses on essential services, while providing vital tax relief to homeowners and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No tax increase. Bottom line. No tax increase. Recognition. You may remember last year I tried to veto the budget because I thought the tax increase they wanted was way too much. Unfortunately my veto was an override. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’ve heard the community, we know what needs to be done, and everybody is just tightening their belt,” Mayor Dee Margo said.

The reductions in the scaled back operating budget are primarily attributed to deferring non-essential capital projects, departments reducing operation costs and focusing on core services such as police, fire and streets. The All Funds Budget for FY2021 stands at approximately $984.7 million, a decrease of approximately $62.3 million from the previous budget.

Along with the new budget, Council adopted the same property tax rate as last year. By keeping the tax rate steady at $0.907 per $100 of property valuation, the City aimed to ease some of the pressure on taxpayers as a result of the financial uncertainty created by the pandemic.

Robert Cortinas, the City’s chief financial officer, said that the average value of a single family home hasn’t changed too much. It has increased only slightly, by less than 1 percent, from July 2019 compared to July 2020. El Paso’s average single family home in 2019 was $133,540, compared to $134,794 in July 2020.

“If we’re looking at the average value home from last year to this year, it actually went down. So with that, by the council maintaining the same tax rate it will actually be a decrease on the average value single family home in El Paso,” Cortinas said.

Also approved, a $2.6 million lump sum payment to non-uniform employees. This would be a one time payment for full and part-time employees. However, furloughed employees aren’t in on that payment.

“They knew the $600 is running out, they weren’t sure if they were going to be in the budget or not, they’re not sure if they’re going to be in the budget in 6 months or not so I think it’s just really looking at ‘can we do anything for them’ to at least help them not be scared every week wondering what’s going to happen,” City Rep. Alexsandra Annello shared.

Cortinas said furloughed employees will still be receiving some financial help on behalf of the city.

“What we did, what we recommended, and what was approved today was to continue paying for their (furloughed employees) portion of healthcare as long as they are furloughed. So again, making sure that them, their spouses, children, continue to have access to healthcare especially right now as we’re going through this health pandemic,” Cortinas explained.

An increase of $481,713 to the budget’s stabilization fund was also approved.

The City’s taxable property values and tax rate are what determines how much funding it will receive from residential and commercial property owners. The City receives a fraction of the total property tax dollars collected in El Paso County. More than half of every tax dollar collected in El Paso goes to other government entities to help pay for non-city services such as public schools, county roads and other programs.

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