EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso City Council adopted a proposed $1 billion budget for 2022 on Tuesday without an increase to the property tax rate.
City officials said the tax rate freeze is to assist residents feeling economic hardship from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which began in 2020. It is the second consecutive year the city adopts a budget with a tax rate freeze.
But officials are still expecting more revenues from property taxes compared to last year as valuations generally increased throughout the county this year. For now, El Pasoans can budget a $0.907 per $100 valuation on their properties in upcoming tax bills.
Earlier this year, the City Council approved increased exemptions for seniors and the disabled on tax bills. An estimated 52,000 homeowners will be able to take advantage of the exemptions, according to the city.
“The last two years have been a challenge for our community due to the pandemic, which impacted our community’s physical and financial health,” said City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “We responded with the best vaccine rollout in America and with a tax bill decrease to seniors and residents with disabilities along with no tax rate increase while bringing back critical serves outlined by our citizens.”
The 2022 budget accounts for certificates of obligation sought by the city earlier this year. City Council approved the issuance of $96 million and $93 million in non-voter approved debt before budget season began.
City budgeting anticipates large expenses in public safety, quality of life and governmental infrastructure with a reduction in communications and sound governance. Increases in quality of life and public safety spending have been driven by the initiated spending for projects deferred during the global pandemic.
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.
The city also has a proposed $180 million capital plan for next year, which looks to improve public safety, health and street investments. Overall, the city has made an investment of nearly $1.4 billion in infrastructure projects.
Along with the city’s budget, elected officials also adopted a mass transit budget for Sun Metro with no increases in fares.
Ellen Smyth, who is in charge of Sun Metro, said the agency has seen a 25-percent increase in ridership due to more residents getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Increases are not expected to make dramatic increases until international bridges open once again, she added.
City officials are expecting a $124 million increase in general and non-general fund revenues from the aviation, economic development and international bridges departments. And, from Destination El Paso. The city’s planning and inspections department expects to bring in nearly $8 million in non-general fund revenues.
You can see the full meeting in the player below: