You’re the Sucker

Are you getting value from your city tax dollars?

I mean, really. Is the city doing anything for you besides providing the occasional traffic ticket? If City Government disappeared tomorrow, would you notice?

The libraries are already shut down. The public pools are closed. It would take a while for the grass in the parks to grow so high that it needed to be cut. I think the sprinklers are on timers, so the grass wouldn’t die right away.

If you own a house in El Paso, you pay thousands of dollars every year to the City. What do you get for it?

Public safety? We’re pretty safe without the services of the police and fire departments. For what we pay the City in taxes, we could hire security guards and private fire departments, or buy guns and hoses. We could pool our money to create an insurance fund, to replace our neighbor’s house if it burnt down.

The zoo’s nice, but it’s closed, too.

Besides, you have to pay to get into the zoo. Even though it’s ours. Even though the zoo is supported by our tax dollars, the City of El Paso still charges you to enter.

Like the public pools.

Your tax dollars apparently don’t cover the Operations and Maintenance of the public services you might use the most. So the City charges you to use them. Even though you already pay for them. Even though you, a citizen of El Paso, own them.

The charge you cover to use your own facility.

Like that house you paid for and thought your own outright. The City still charges you rent every year. They call it Property Taxes.

The libraries are free. For now.

Remember, the City owns the ballpark. You take your family to a ball game, you’ll be lucky to get out of the ballpark for less than $100. Real lucky.

They won’t let you bring burritos to a ball game, or soft drinks, or beer. You go the the ballpark and you have to buy $8 hot dogs and $8 beers. And the City has to kick in money every year to pay for the ballpark bonds. Remember when the Hotel Tax was going to make tourists pay for the ballpark?

That was then, and this is now. The tourists aren’t the suckers anymore. You are. I guess you were the sucker when they pitched the whole proposal, anyway. The whole time. They City’s been playing the taxpayers for suckers.

You. The taxpayer. Sucker.

Do you think the City will charge an entrance fee to get into the Children’s Museum? You bet your ass they will. City building, city land, and you’ll still have to pay to get in. Maybe the school districts will take student excursions to the museum, but you’ll pay for that, too, only you’ll pay it via your school district tax.

And the money you pay the City every year, the property taxes and entrance fees, is money you don’t have for other things. Like taking your family out to eat, or to the movies. Like saving for your children’s college. Like fixing your roof. What could you do with the money you pay the City every year in property taxes?

Why is the City in the entertainment business? Why is the City competing with local businesses for the citizens’ disposable income? Why is the City spending tax dollars to compete with private enterprise?

Maybe you’re thinking about moving to one of the unincorporated areas outside the City Limits. Or maybe you’re thinking about moving to Socorro, or San Eli, or Sunland Park. Santa Teresa. You’d pay less in property taxes, and still get to use the same facilities in El Paso. Still pay the same Entrance Fees. Still get stuck paying the same cover charges, without the burden of our local property taxes.

So what’s the City’s Value Proposition? What makes it worth it to live here? To pay the local property taxes?

The sunsets? The culture? The food?

Short commute times?

Those are all great things about El Paso, but City Government doesn’t have much to do with any of those. How do they get away with charging us for them?


  1. All good questions for which I have no answers. Put it another way. What makes El Paso a better place for us to live and spend our hard earned dollars in, as opposed to, say, Austin, or San Antonio, or any other Texas city? Let’s face it. You will pay taxes and fees no matter where you choose to live, and you will not find a better climate, or safer environment in terms of dangerous events like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, wild fires, tornadoes, or even derechos (whatever those are). Nor will you find a better life style elsewhere. And, for damn sure, you won’t find an honest politician, or one who really runs for office with the intention of helping society. So, at the end of the day? We’re no worse off here despite all of our complaining and bitching.

    1. Thousands of El Pasoans leave every year. Only a few come back. So there must be some advantage to moving to those other cities.

      I love El Paso. But our City Government isn’t doing it justice. Maybe because so many of our City employees come from other places.

  2. El Pasoans are paying for expensive bureaucracy and huge sums to offer tax breaks to outside businesses and developers. The last 8 years of mayoral leadership: disastrous (even before, not great). Our temperatures: hotter every year, and most of the current elected leaders seem oblivious. I am not ready to give up on identifying quality people to run for office and then become accountable to the community.

  3. The answer to this dilemma has always been in plain sight. I’ve lived in Austin, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Durango, CO, Chino Hills, CA, Anchorage, AK, Chico, CA, Albuquerque, Alpine, TX and Taos, NM. All have provided more value as a product of tax dollars, with the possible exception of Alpine, than El Paso.

    The tax dollars have gone to boondoggle projects that enrich the oligarch class that has dominated El Paso since I was a kid in the 50s. El Paso has always been a day late and a dollar short. While there has been recent efforts to develop downtown and major sports venues, many El Pasoans are effectively locked out economically as indicated in the article. Renovated city centers occurred in other major Southwestern cities decades ago. They are well established and difficult to market against.

    I am really glad to see this journalism site, as one of the primary differences between the other cities I have lived in and El Paso was vigorous investigate reporting. I also see a real opportunity in the current mayoral race to change El Paso’s direction. As an outside observer it seems to me that Ms. Carbajal as mayor could facilitate real change in El Paso. Vote!

  4. I moved from El Paso 32 years ago, but am in the process of selling my Michigan home and moving back. Well…maybe not back to El Paso. And it’s specifically because of the points your article states.
    El Paso has taxed its residents to the point where I am seriously considering moving to an outlying area. That way, as you stated, I reap the benefits that El Paso has to offer, but not have to pay through the nose to use them.
    For decades El Paso’s governmental organization has never really had any internal opposition when it comes to spending tax revenue. I suppose one hand washes the other when the time comes. That way each side gets their turn at the pot of gold for their pet project.
    I love El Paso. That’s my hometown. My roots are planted there. I have a lot of family members there and that’s why I’m going back home, or at least somewhere closer to home.

  5. For decades El Paso city leaders have short themselves (and El Paso) in the foot by promoting El Paso as a minimum wage Mecca. They also stupidly razed downtown buildings, including a Trost apartment building, to build parking lots. Then they claimed that “downtown was dying” which was true because because the downtown didn’t offer more places to live. Add to that hundreds of millions of dollars vanity projects all paid for by property taxes, that are among the highest in the nation, in a city that has a high rate of poverty.

  6. One thing I always thought was funny about El Paso, is that school grounds are locked up like prisons. Why shouldn’t kids and citizens have access to the Tennis Courts, Baseball Diamonds, and Playgrounds?…we pay for them…This city seems to be afraid of people being out of their houses…Except of course at approved social venues for leisure class.

  7. I moved here from the Southside of Chicago about 35 years ago. I thought I was in heaven. Raised a nice family. Made a living. I’m just trying to figure out how we’re fucking up an easy deal. Doesn’t seem logical.

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