Commissioner searching old county bank account for forgotten cash

Leon tells ABC-7 he believes he's found more than $1.5 million

County Money

EL PASO, Texas - County Commissioner Carlos Leon told ABC-7 that his office has uncovered more than $8 million in unspent capital improvement projects dating back to 1998.

Leon has been searching old county bank accounts for money to pay for a hotly-debated countywide radio system. According to him, a lot of the money has already been earmarked for projects that haven't wrapped up, but he thinks more than $1.5 million is available that is just sitting in the bank without a designated project.

On Tuesday, Leon said he intends to question department heads from El Paso County where the money is, and what it can be used for.

"We're going to be discussing do these moneys actually exist, have the programs been completed -- or can we go into that?" said Leon. "What are our obstacles into recovering these funds?"

When asked why money would be sitting in bank accounts that isn't being used, Leon said it was a question best addressed to the auditor's office. ABC-7 reached out late Monday but has not heard back.

Regardless of why, Leon said it could be good news. Leon has been searching for money to help pay for a $10.3 million county radio system. As ABC-7 has reported, the sheriff has requested a new P25 radio system for his deputies. That project is $5.8 million over budget.

Last week, county leaders debated whether they would back a plan that is several million dollars over budget. They decided to wait two weeks before voting. During that time, commissioners Leon and Vince Perez are exploring options to fund the project.

Questions have been risen whether taxes would need to be raised to pay for a project. The county is preparing for its annual budget session. Commissioners are expected to discuss the project next week. On Thursday Leon said a meeting will take place where he and the auditor detail the money his office has been researching. 

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