El Paso City Council passes $141-million spending on streets and projects, $93 million in non-voter approved debt

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso City Council approved $141.3 million in spending to fund ongoing efforts to reinvigorate city streets, lighting, and bolster spending for quality of life initiatives.

The City Council also initiated efforts to pull $93 million of certificates of obligation, non-voter approved debt, to support various efforts in ongoing construction initiatives throughout the city.

Tuesday’s actions required three separate voting segments in order to establish ordinances approving the issuing of debt, and refinancing debt for the ballpark.

City representatives voted 6-2 in each voting period. Representatives Joe Molinar and Claudia Rodriguez voted against the measures.

Approved spending for the 2021 fiscal year includes $48.3 million to initiate projects funded through the 2019 Public Safety Bond approved by voters. The city is also budgeting for a $6.6 million public health lab.

The spending included $33.5 million or 24 percent of the spending to improve local streets and an additional $14.6 million for street lights. Included in the spending is a $10.6 million commitment to the city’s portion of Metropolitan Planning Organization street efforts.

City officials also say $20 million will be allocated to support the ongoing construction of the Downtown Children’s Museum, a voter approved project. In addition, $5 million is going to flat fields in the East Side Sports Complex and $2.6 million to Leo Cancellare Pool.

  • 2012 Street Capital Improvements – $30 million
  • 2017 Capital Improvements – $6 million
  • 2018 Capital Improvements – $20 million
  • 2018 East Side Sports Complex Phase 2 – $5 million
  • 2019 Capital Improvements – $32 million
  • 2019 Public Safety Bond – $48.3 million

The council approved refinancing debt on various projects and funds including the Ballpark, 2012 streets initiative, and past general obligation and certificates of obligation. City officials project a savings of $58 million from refinancing.

City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez of District 3 said she is pleased with interest rates allowing for savings from refinancing debt. And, asked if the city administration is considering more aggressive in helping the local economy recover from the pandemic.

Robert Cortinas, the city’s chief financial officer, said interest rates will be a factor in budget discussions later this year as the council considers aggressive measures to address debt and spending for next year.

Mayor Oscar Leeser added the council will have to “hold the line on taxes” due to financial burdens on the community spurred by the pandemic.

“We have to be sure to look after our constituents,” he said.

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