“You messed up. You trusted us.”

The media is asking us to remember that our taxes are going up because we approved all those tax intensive projects. This was in the Times this week:

The council and city staff have said, convincingly, that voters requested the additional spending that is driving the tax increase. Voters overwhelmingly approved quality of life bond issues in 2012 and a pay and benefits package for firefighters in 2015. During the campaigns for both those issues, the tax impact of a “yes” vote was very clear.

Our daily rag seems to forget that we were poorly informed before the Quality of Life bond election. Conveniently, perhaps, because it was their job to inform us. The El Paso Times online history disappeared when Gannett acquired the paper, but remember this story from the El Paso Inc.?

The quality of life bonds will be sold not all at once, but over seven to 10 years, starting with $33 million in 2014 with the first payments the following year.

Meanwhile, the city’s older debt will be dropping rapidly.

Over that time, the city’s tax rate, now at 66 cents per $100 valuation, will rise by only 5 cents, [El Paso City Chief Financial Officer Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria] says, peaking for two years before starting to decline.

So see, there’s nothing to worry about. Our taxes will start to decline in 2016.

Wait. What?

At the risk of stating the obvious, let me say that it’s a different world now than it was in 2012 when the citizens of El Paso approved the Qol bonds. In 2012, El Paso was flush with an influx of businessmen fleeing the violence in Juarez. Our city leaders, having rarely visited Juarez, thought we could entice those refugees into permanent residence by offering them all the things our city leaders liked. You know, Disneyland.

In 2012, growth at Fort Bliss was trickling money into the El Paso economy. Our city leaders seem to have lost sight of the fact that growth at Fort Bliss didn’t come with any property tax revenue. Any real tax benefit as the result of growth at Fort Bliss was incidental and short-lived.

Now what? Our population growth has flat-lined. Income is down. Our wages are among the lowest in the nation.

When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Higher property taxes aren’t the answer.

Let’s hold off on those QoL projects. They’re not the answer. They’re part of the problem.

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