City of El Paso considering no tax rate increase, still expects more from property taxes

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Seniors and the disabled to see tax relief

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — City of El Paso officials say they are considering a freeze on the tax rate this year, but they are still expecting to see a $6 million increase from property taxes in the 2022 fiscal year budget.

Overall, the city is expecting a $31 million increase in revenues for next year, a majority of those gains coming from sales and property taxes, as well as from franchise fees and licenses and permits.

Residents have raised concern about this year’s re-evaluation of properties by the El Paso Central Appraisal District due to valuations going up on average of 13 percent. And, though the city is considering a tax rate freeze, it appears residents may still feel the pinch from higher valuations on their tax bills.

In total, the city expects to receive nearly $233 million in property taxes, an increase from last year’s $226.9 million.

City leaders remain optimistic about budgeting for this fiscal year and beyond.

“Our future-forward approach has allowed our community to gradually rebound from the challenging economic situation caused by the pandemic, while still being able to address long-term unfunded liabilities such as public safety, streets and public health,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said in a news release. “We have also been able to maintain a strong bond rating and continue our sales tax growth.”

El Paso seniors and the disabled may see some relief as the city is proposing to reduce taxes for those homeowners. City staff revealed a preliminary snapshot of revenues and expenses for Fiscal Year 2022 to the El Paso City Council on Tuesday.

Sales tax revenue growth shows promise as funds are expected to rise 28 percent between Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. The city estimates it will receive nearly $106 million in revenue in sales tax for next year, compared to $82.5 million last year.

The city has a preliminary $473 million general fund budget for Fiscal Year 2022, a $31 million increase from last year’s. The preliminary budget anticipates large expenses in public safety, quality of life and governmental infrastructure with a reduction in communications and sound governance.

An increase in quality of life and public safety spending this year is driving much of next year’s proposed budget figures, according to a city presentation. Earlier this year, the city began opening more public services and initiated spending for several quality of life projects after they had been deferred during the global pandemic.

The city’s office of management and budget accounted for seven major investments in public safety for 2022. Budgetary effects from public safety include: collective bargaining commitments, two police academies, three fire academies, 911 communications staffing, $1.2 million for the Crisis Intervention Team, $7.8 million for capital replacements and $404,000 for data storage of body cameras.

City estimates show police staffing is expected to grow through 2023. For now, there are 1,151 police officers but the department expects to have 1,262 by Fiscal Year 2023.

In streets, the city is looking to spend $4.8 million on residential street projects and $1.8 million in intersection safety. There is also a plan for $500,000 in ADA on-demand requests and $250,000 in traffic management planning.

And, in quality of life, the city expects to spend $10.7 million for services and operating costs on new bond projects. There are also plans to invest $1.5 million in a sports complex’s maintenance.

Also, 30 facilities have been re-opened and six for the first time this year. In 2022, the city plans on activating 32 more, including eight rec centers, five more aquatics facilities, seven libraries, all senior centers and the archaeology museum.

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