City of El Paso talks new budget, COVID-19 challenges

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The City of El Paso hosted a virtual roundtable on Thursday to discuss the City’s 30-month plan and the 2021 fiscal year budget. 

“It’s difficult to look at whether this 30-month budget goal is on target because of COVID-19, but we feel good about it and think the numbers will get better, not worse,” said City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez says key points to next year’s budget includes:

  • Not increasing tax rates 
  • Mitigating challenges presented by limited date and uncertainty amid the pandemic 
  • Long-term recovery with continued revenue declines 
  • Focus on increasing basics like police and fire departments, street repairs, and workforce investments
  • No debt insurance (defer non-essential capital projects)
  • Utilize every tool and resource to balance the budget 

Gonzalez says balancing the budget is incredibly complicated and El Pasoans must be aware of issues surrounding the pandemic economy. 

The City has created a cross-functional team in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help mitigate economic decline and has implemented a “firm” plan. 

Robert Cortinas, Deputy City Manager of Support Services and Chief Financial Officer, explained the City’s plan to deal with our “new normal”:

  • Focused attention on essential services
  •     Innovative methods of delivering services 
  •     Resiliency in handling health, financial, and operational impacts 
  •     Mitigating continued negative economic impacts to the community

According to Cortinas, this course of action will evaluate how to utilize new technologies to optimize existing services and protect the economic impact of sporadic re-opening and closures of businesses. 

To improve the City’s financial and operational status, Gonzalez and Cortinas say they are referring to the city of El Paso’s strategic plan to navigate. Key priorities include enhancing the city’s general funds reserve, investing in the workforce, addressing deferred investments, creating annual pay-go and new revenue priorities, conducting cost-saving and efficiency programs, and engaging the community. 

Adjustments to balance the budget will take a six-pronged approach beginning with scaled-down and phased-in openings of quality of life facilities, maintaining a freeze on filling non-essential vacant employment positions, deferring annual pay-go and debt insurance, utilizing debt service savings and federal funding, and using remaining budget stabilization funds. 

Upcoming events on the fiscal year 2021 budget calendar will begin July 6 with an overview and vision block of presentations and City Council is slated to adopt the budget and tax rate on August 18. 

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