The nearly 15-percent tax hike approved Monday by County Commissioners is being called a five-cent raise.
Two cents will pay for the $110 million worth of bonds passed earlier this year by El Paso County Commissioners; another two cents will go toward salary increases for county employees; and the final cent will go toward a fund to lower the county's dependency on debt. It's a five-cent tax increase for every $100 of property valuation.
The overall cost for a person owning a $100,000 home will be $52.58. It's a 14.67 percent raise compared the previous years tax rate.
County Judge Veronica Escobar has spent several months meeting with local businesses, neighborhood groups and various El Pasoans to discuss the tax rate. She told members in Monday's audience that she hasn't heard a negative tone from those who've listened to the reasoning behind a tax hike.
"Our employees and our elected officials took salary deductions over the past few years," Escobar explained. "Even with the penny increase it doesn't bring people up to where they were four years ago."
Commissioner Dan Haggerty, who has opposed several tax increase items discussed in weeks past was not at Monday's meeting. Without Haggerty at Commissioners Court, Commissioner Sergio Lewis was the only person to speak against the increase.
"I realize we're trying to do the best that we can, but after supporting $110 million then adding another penny I have reservations," said Lewis.
Lewis said he had no issue over a portion of the tax increase. He voted in favor of the $110 million in certificates of obligation that were not brought before voters, but after doing so felt the portion of the raise that would reduce the county's reliance on debt was troubling at this time.
"I want to be part of moving forward, I don't want to look like I'm not," said Lewis. "I just can't support the tax raise to the roll-back amount."
Following his statements, no one else came forward to speak about the tax increase. The tax rate passed shortly after by a vote of 3-to-1. The tax rate will kick in during 2013 for El Paso County residents.