El Paso County commissioners plan to raise taxes this year, but they’re placing the blame on state lawmakers.
According to KFOX 14, Commissioner David Stout said the new tax trigger was the reason for hitting homeowners and businesses with bigger tax bills. “We have so many things that we need to pay for this time around because next year we’re going to be capped at 3.5%,” said Stout.
What will this mean for the average household? It’s estimated that the average El Paso homeowner will pay an extra $49 in new taxes. That would, of course, come in addition to other area tax increases being considered too. For example, the hospital district also proposed an increase of $31 per year for the average homeowner. After factoring in all the various tax increases, the average area resident is looking at a $163 increase in their annual taxes.
El Paso-area governments say they need more. For the county, it’s more sheriff’s department employees, more county employees, better immigration services and higher wages. For the hospital district, more is needed to support the growing nexus of patients, services, and clinics.
A few will benefit. The rest will pay the tab.
Government is growing in El Paso County—faster than the property owners’ ability to pay.
The way to measure the growth of government is to compare its increasing needs (population and inflation) to its actual growth (its revenue).
Here the difference is obvious. For example, population and inflation in El Paso County increased only 7.5 percent between 2013 and 2017. Meanwhile, the property taxes levied by the county in that same period increased 20.5 percent—almost three times faster than what it should have.
Now commissioners are considering whether to accelerate that growth even more.
Excessive and incessant local tax increases are, of course, the reason why Texas lawmakers lowered the rollback tax rate from 8 percent to 3.5 percent in the first place. Unfortunately, lawmakers delayed the start of that reform, allowing local governments, like El Paso County and others to sock it to taxpayers one last time before it takes effect in January 2020.
The truth is that there’s never a time in which higher-tax advocates decide that their work is finished. In bad times, taxes must be raised to ensure fair wealth distribution to the socio-economically disadvantaged. In good times, taxes must be raised to reap the full benefits of fiscal growth. Heads: higher-tax advocates win. Tails: the taxpayer loses.
If the county really is concerned with managing its growth responsibly, it should refrain from raising taxes and killing growth in the first place.