The City Strikes Again!

I’m beginning to think that those Quality of Life bonds were nothing but a mammoth fraud.

Look at this story from KVIA:

The Eastside Sports Complex was approved during the 2012 Quality of Life bonds, but the city says there’s not enough money in the general fund to pay for both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of construction. During Tuesday’s city council meeting, city representatives were presented with information on moving along with creating a Public Improvement District and a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to help fund the project.

The project is broken up into two phases. The city says Phase 1 is mainly funded by bonds, but they need an additional $13.6 million dollars to pay for Phase 2.

Wait. What?

They’re thirteen and a half million dollars over budget?

I’d like to blame somebody but I don’t know who to blame.

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and the Engineering Department of the City of El Paso?

Past City Manager Joyce Wilson, who ran the City when the bonds were passed?

All those politicians who were supposed to keep both City Managers in check?

Personally, I think that this is a cool project. Sixteen competition fields, one with a 500-seat stadium. Also, I think that those new Corvettes are cool cars. I can’t afford a Corvette, either.

A little more than a year ago the project looked like a Corolla, according to an April 12, 2016 story in the El Paso Times:

The City Council on Monday awarded a design and construction contract for the $10 million Eastside Sports Complex to Jordan Foster Construction Co.

The $320,800 contract marks the first step in development for the 80-acre park on the far East Side. The park will feature flat fields for various sports, sheltered areas with picnic tables and benches, and a food truck service area. Hiking and biking trails will be built along the complex’s perimeter, city documents show.

The contract calls for at least six fields with at least one designated as a championship field with seating for as many as 500 spectators and plans for 16 fields in future phases, according to city documents.

You remember Jordan Foster went over budget about fifty percent on the ballpark, delivering the $50 million Guaranteed Maximum Price project for around $72 million, as far as we know.

And now what? They’re $13.6 million over budget on a $10 million project?

Obviously, the original plans have changed. What the Times told us was six fields a year ago is now sixteen. (Maybe six was a typo.) But it looks like they took the ball and ran with it and now they’re asking us to pay for it.

But don’t worry. Our friends at the city have a of plan.

According to KVIA:

The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ, is an economic development toll established by the city in 2006. When property values in that zone go up, the additional revenue in property taxes is reinvested in that area, instead of going to the city’s general fund where regular property taxes are allocated and used to pay for city services.

. . .

The area in question is in an undeveloped area about 800 acres which includes at least 19 parcels but has the potential to develop 2,200-2,300 housing units in the future. City Rep. Dr. Michiel Noe tells ABC-7 since the area is being developed, the city would go directly to property owners for approval.

Gee, do you think property values are going to go up if you develop 800 acres with 2,200 to 2,300 housing units? Oh yeah. And how much of that increase will go into the City’s general fund?

Nada. Zero. Zip. All of that money, all of the City’s property tax on the increase in value from 800 acres of raw desert to 2,200 suburban tract homes will go right back into their own neighborhood. And our neighbors out there on the eastern fringe will get absolutely free police and fire protection and perhaps some of that elusive street maintenance.

See, that TIRZ is just a citywide tax increase by another name. Somebody’s going to be picking up the tab for those city services out there but it won’t be the people who live out there. It’ll be the rest of us.

The other financing option they’re looking at out there is a Public Improvement District.

A Public Improvement District or PID, works similarly but separately where each person or entity in that specific zone would pay an additional “tax” added to amount taxed per home. The money goes into a fund that goes back directly to the area. In order for the city to move forward with a PID, the majority of those living in the area must vote to approve it. The money would pay for the improvements, operations and maintenance.

A PID is just the opposite of a TIRZ. A PID makes the people who live in the neighborhood pay for improvements for the neighborhood. The only catch is that you have to get those people who live out there to vote to increase their property taxes. Not likely.

Keep in mind, too, that an 80 acre tournament park will need a lot of maintenance. We’ll be paying that forever, too.

They’re probably going to slip this one through without anyone noticing. City Council will probably vote to approve the TIRZ and then dislocate their shoulders patting themselves on the back about it. After all, it’s only money, and it’s not even theirs.

One comment

  1. Try blaming the citizens of El Paso who can’t seem to grasp that cool stuff costs money. Then blame everyone you mentioned for not having the balls to tell the citizens “No, we can’t afford that”.

    I mean seriously, remember all the whining parents and kids when council was discussing the west side pool? Poor babies can’t get ready for the olympics without a proper pool. Nevermind that ELP is one of the poorest cities in the country with some of the lowest property values in the state, as far as they were concerned we NEED olympic quality pools and dozens of grassy fields so that a few folks can go play soccer on the weekends. We don’t need any of that shit but to hear the citizens of ELP talk about it at council, the parks and pools and all that crap are vital for the continued existence of the City and their children.

    Honestly, who cares what system they use for paying for their Cadillac park, we need to get a grip and stop whining about how much we need the same fancy stuff throughout the City and learn to share and to commute a bit to do the things that matter to us.

    OR maybe just maybe stop the sprawl and stop letting developers keep creeping further and further out of town. Don’t blame the random home owners out in the outskirts, look at the big developers and how they sit on land for decades while they keep it un-annexed and taxed much more cheaply than it should be all the while getting the financial benefit of being able to say their portfolio has tons of prime commercial or residential real estate.

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