As you likely know, El Paso taxpayers are bracing for yet more taxes as the County, EPISD, YISD, UMC and other taxing entities look to shore up their failed budgets on the backs of the El Paso taxpayers. Since I do not have children, nor any taxable property in El Paso, I have decided to hold back my commentary on EPISD’s bond initiative. Although to be transparent with all of you, I have agreed to make a few graphics for opponents to the EPISD bond and have asked proponents and opponents to submit editorials about the bond for consideration for me to post them on my blog. For the graphics, I have donated my personal time in creating the graphics for them. That leaves the City of El Paso, the County of El Paso and UMC as three the most burdensome taxers in El Paso.
Yesterday, city council decided to delete the item from the agenda calling to override the mayor’s veto of the tax increase on the budget. As such, the veto stands. However, city council, nonetheless, adopted a budget that increases your city taxes. Oscar Leeser broke the tie to raise your taxes. Go figure.
Meanwhile, the County and UMC have adopted tax rates that will allow them to generate more tax monies from your pockets, although they are saying they will not be increasing taxes this cycle. It is part of the shell game they generally play and in light of the egregious raises they gave themselves the politicos know full well that the electorate is in no mood for higher taxes.
However, and this is important, the proposed tax rates will only postpone the inevitable budget catastrophe that is sure to force taxes to go up next time budget season comes around. In the case of UMC, they are proposing to fund the budget by raiding UMC’s savings accounts to pretend there is no budget shortfall.
Both entities, the County and UMC have one thing in common and one specific individual to blame for the tax woes – Veronica Escobar.
Escobar has embarked on a public policy agenda that attempts to simulate economic prosperity through taxation. This agenda is best exemplified by the El Paso Children’s Hospital. In 2011, when the children’s hospital construction was started, Veronica Escobar told the taxpayers that if they were patient and allowed her to work her magic then El Paso was “going to look back and say the Children’s Hospital was one of the best things ever built.” Remember that Escobar was the county commissioners’ loudest advocate for the 2007 bonds to build the hospital. We now know that the children’s hospital is not one of the best things ever built.
During her 2015 State of the County address, Escobar touted her accomplishments as no tax increases for the County nor UMC. Escobar also told everyone how a new contract with the sheriff’s association was a money-saving deal for the taxpayers of the county. According to Escobar, the sheriff’s agreement saved the county $4.5 million. Escobar told the audience that the sheriff’s deal would “benefit” the taxpayers “into the future.”
Escobar embarked on another health scheme by building clinics all over town. The clinics are not scheduled to open until later next year. When the children’s scheme imploded upon itself and it couldn’t be kept a secret any longer, Veronica Escobar pushed for the children’s hospital to be put under UMC’s umbrella, officially making it another dependent on the taxpayers.
On Monday, the county commissioners set the tax rates for the county and UMC. In the case of UMC, the proposed budget will still result in an $18 million deficit for UMC. In other words, UMC will spend $18 million more than it will receive from the taxpayers. To do so, UMC is proposing to raid its savings account, leaving it with only enough money to operate for about a month in an emergency.
And, it gets worse for the taxpayers. The children’s hospital is also projecting a deficit for next year’s budget. Remember, the children’s hospital is now your responsibility, like Veronica Escobar wanted it to be, and you, the taxpayer will be making up the differences. If children’s adopts its proposed budget, it will also raid its savings account and leave it with about 10 days of money to pay bills with.
What does this all mean for the taxpayers of the community? Those savings accounts need to be brought up in order to meet bond ratings requirements. Additionally, not only do the taxpayers need to put more money into both savings accounts, the taxpayers also need to make up the difference in the budgets that keep both organizations operating in the red.
But it gets worse. Remember how Veronica Escobar told you that the sheriff’s department was saving money because of her acumen? Well, for some reason it wasn’t enough to offset the county’s taxes in favor of the taxpayers. But it still gets worse. Remember how Veronica Escobar told you during her State of the County address that the county had turned the corner and everything was on track for prosperity?
Well now, during budget deliberations, her comments are; “despite the incredible challenges UMC has.” Somehow, after telling you that UMC was prospering and was in the black, it is now in the red. Somehow, the sheriff’s department savings are nowhere to be found during this budget cycle, although you were told that you would benefit from them, “well into the future.”
Oh, but it gets even worse. Just like the children’s hospital was going to make you look back and say it was “one of the best things ever built,” so too are the clinics that are yet to open. Somehow they seem to be the final key to relieving you of all of the tax burdens that keep you trudging along just to keep Veronica Escobar’s public policy agenda making El Paso a better place.
The question you should all be asking yourselves today is whether you really want to wait for the clinics to open to see if, truly you are going to be receiving some tax relief from Escobar’s acumen? Better yet, are going to let her enjoy her self-administered raise and that of her cohorts at the same time that your tax burden increases yet again?
Probably so because other than a few grumbles about the raises the county commissioners bestowed upon themselves, I’ve yet to see anyone truly challenge the notion that Veronica Escobar’s public policy agenda will make El Paso a better place for the taxpayers.