El Paso has the highest residential property tax rates in the country. Our elected officials used to say that was because our property values were so low, but property values went up this year (bigly), and our property tax rates didn’t go down, so maybe our elected officials were lying.
On the other hand, commercial property values increased by less than one percent this year. Sure, COVID drove a lot of shopping online, which hurts brick and mortar. But that’s only part of the reason.
With the City (and school districts, and all the other taxing entities, and the utilities) taking a bigger chunk of your paycheck every time they pass the hat, you have less money to spend at the Pic Quik, or Peter Piper, or Radio Shack and Fed Mart.
And you have all those municipally subsidized entertainment facilities, like the ballpark and the water parks, siphoning off more of your disposable income from the free market options. That’s a double whammy, because not only is money spent at the ballpark and water parks money that you can’t spend someplace else, those amenities also cost more to operate than they make, so that’s another drain on the City’s coffers, which translates to higher taxes.
As if that weren’t enough, the City grants tax incentives to practically any business that wants to open, and also to businesses that say they might want to leave.
And let’s not forget the proliferation of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones. TIRZs confine any property tax increase in a designated area to that area. The next time you read about any commercial progress, check to see if that development is in a TIRZ. Downtown is covered by TIRZ 5. Any increase in property values in Dwntwn is dedicated to public improvements in Dwntwn. That increase in property taxes doesn’t make it to the City’s General Fund.
Last week your City Council created TIRZ 14, a non-contiguous zone encompassing Airport Road from Montana to Biggs Field. Can’t you see a bunch of strip malls popping up across the street from Fort Bliss? Does El Paso need more strip malls? Do more businesses make more business, or will more businesses just take income away from the businesses we already have?
The City of El Paso has designed its Economic Development program to shift taxes to residential property owners, and pick winners and losers among our commercial interests.
And let’s not forget the City’s six-figure carpetbagger executives. If they’re not figuring out ways to spend your tax dollars, they’re not doing their jobs. Increasing their departments’ budgets means they increase their power and influence. Is there anyone in City Government responsible for reining in rampant fiscal profligacy?
Well, yes. Sort of. Fiscal constraint is the responsibility of your elected officials, but too many of them have been drinking the City Manager’s bathwater. City Council is ultimately responsible for the budget, the issuance of debt, the City Manager’s salary, and the tax rate.
So the bottom line is that you, the voter, are to blame for your higher taxes. I recommend you lean on your City Representative. I recommend you educate your neighbors. Mostly, I recommend you vote in every election.
Also, I recommend you keep up with the machinations of City Government by reading El Chuqueño, and maybe kick in a little cabbage via that PayPal link in the sidebar.
Thanks for reading.