The Trouble With TIRZs

You might no be so pissed off when you wrote that property tax check if your money was going for something you might actually use.

Instead of a ballpark. Instead of a natatorioum. Instead of a trolley.

If, instead, your tax dollars paid for a neighborhood park. Or street maintenance. Or a neighborhood swimming pool, or barbecue grills, or landscaping.

Imagine how nice your neighborhood could be if all your tax dollars stayed in the neighborhood.

That’s what’s going to happen with TIRZ 13, Paul Foster’s new neighborhood out there around the golf course in Northeast El Paso.

You remember. Mr. Foster traded those 44 acres on the freeway for 2,313 acres in Northeast. The geniuses who run the City threw in a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone just to sweeten the deal.

Right now those 2,313 acres are raw desert, valued at around $18 million. And it’s those $18 million that the City will receive property taxes on till the TIRZ runs out, in 40 years, I believe.

The TIRZ gets to keep the taxes on any improvements that are made on that property. Like Mac Mansions. Like shopping centers. Like restaurants.

Of course, the residents out there will receive all the same benefits the rest of us pay for. Like police. Fire protection. Parks.

The ballpark, the natatorium, and the trolley.

The mayor made the decision to put a TIRZ out there. And your City Council representatives. And the City Manager.

And they didn’t even kiss us.


  1. I am also opposed to the TIRZ on the far west side, but I’m curious about why you oppose some of the other things you mentioned. Isn’t the natatorium essentially a fancy neighborhood pool? So it’s exactly what you claim to want, but then you claim you’re against it. I mean, personally I don’t use the natatorium but I wouldn’t use a pool if they put one in my neighborhood either. So what’s your problem with it?

    1. The Westside Natatorium was partially financed with Certificates of Obligation. It’s a extravagance that doesn’t do anything to further the ostensible goal of economic development. The money we spent on the natatorium is money that we can’t spend on something else, like street maintenance, or real economic development. And those people who live in a TIRZ can still use the natatorium and not contribute anything to the General Fund for its Operation and Maintenance (except the $3 day pass), let alone paying off the debt.

      1. I agree that the natatorium will do nothing for economic development. But neither will a neighborhood pool, which you stated in this post that you support. I don’t care about the natatorium one way or the other. I just don’t understand why you’re saying the City should build more pools and then criticizing them when they build one.

        1. How about because that location only benefits a few at the expense of the many? We need pools in other areas of town, too, you know. And, this same City tells us we can’t afford them? Makes no sense to those of struggling to pay our taxes out in Far East.

        2. Joel, maybe I didn’t express myself well. The issue isn’t neighborhood pools. My point is that those TIRZ communities don’t pay their share into the General Fund, especially if they’re vacant land when the TIRZ is created.

  2. Okay, I had to look up natatorium, but it’s just a swimming pool. I don’t have a problem wit swimming pools.

    1. The problem with the natatorium is it is really a swimming pool on steroids with construction, maintenance and operating costs much higher than a neighborhood swimming pool. We could build several neighborhood swimming pools for what just one natatorium costs. The complexity of the natatorium’s equipment has already caused one shutdown when the folks hired to operate it, broke it instead. And given that the Tiguas couldn’t cover the costs of their competition class swimming pool when they had the only one in town, the argument that this will attract competitive swimmers and more regional competition is specious. The TIRZ complicates the issue. We are spending more than we can pay for all over town and segregating property tax money for expenditures in new developments means we all have to pay even more to cover stuff like the natatorium, the trolley, the ballpark, brio, etc.

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