Mo’ Taxes

The City offered up their newly minted Chief Financial Officer to defend our sky high tax rates. Here’s David Crowder in the El Paso Inc., interpreting the tax increase City Council just voted us.

Amid rising concerns about El Paso’s debt and tax levels, City Council has approved a list of projects that will cost $94 million and add $80 million more to the city’s credit card.

Approved on a 5-3 vote at a special meeting last week, the projects include $64 million for improvements to the city’s 25 most-used roads, two $5.2-million conference centers, $3 million for neighborhood upgrades and $2.4 million for a visitor center at San Jacinto Plaza.

Robert Cortinas, the city’s chief financial officer, said sales of the bonds are expected to add just under five cents to the city’s property tax rate of 80 cents per $100 valuation over the next six years.

Five cents on 80 is a big percentage. Remember, the City’s CFO who was pitching those Quality of Life bonds told us that taxes would peak at 71.

But now the City’s saying your high property tax is not their fault. It’s your fault.

Cortinas, the city’s CFO, concedes that El Paso’s tax rate is high. But the actual property tax burden – the amount of money each El Pasoan pays to the city’s coffers each year – is lower because property valuations for homes and businesses are among the lowest in the state.

. . .

“It’s all about the tax base,” Cortinas said. “When you compare the city of El Paso’s tax base to any other large Texas city, we really are far behind.”

When I’m far behind, I stop spending money I don’t have.

See, it’s all about them. They need the money. Like it’s already their money and they’re just letting us use it. And they want it back.

They’re not even asking us for it. They’re telling us we owe them.

And why do they need to ask us for more money? Because we’re poor. Because our houses aren’t expensive enough.

Mr. Cortinas says it’s only $398 per person. If taxes per person is the right way to look at property taxes, my six-year-old is going to have to get a job. There are a lot of people who don’t own property, and they don’t pay the tax directly. (They just have to pay a little more for rent, and groceries, and all those utilities that go up every year.)

A more interesting stat would be tax by property or tax by property owner.

In addition, he said, Lincoln’s tax rate comparisons aren’t based on El Paso’s 80-cent tax rate alone but on city, school district, community college, county and hospital district taxes – combined.

But only the City is voting themselves a 6% increase in the property tax rate right now. We can debate the merits of any tax increases from the other taxing entities when they come up.

Unless, of course, the claim the tax increases are for the children. Then we’ll just have to eat it.

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