County Commissioners discuss budget options for next year

County Commissioners discussing budget options

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso County Commissioners are trying to figure out how to cut $8.7 million out of next year's county budget.

Next fiscal year's budget starts October 1 this year. Right now, commissioners are analyzing all the data they received from the County Auditor so they can make a smooth transition.

County Judge Veronica Escobar says the county can deal with the potential $9 million dollars three ways: it can raise taxes, dip into the county's reserve, or make cuts. So far, commissioners are favoring budget cuts.

Thursday's meeting was meant to finish a discussion that started last week. The county auditor presented a budget overview from fiscal years 2008 to present. Commissioners are looking at all options, including a partial hiring freeze and not giving current employees cost of living pay raises.

A major challenge in next year's budget is a projected $1 million increase in the cost of court appointed attorneys who represent the poor. Commissioner Sergio Lewis says delaying the raise for these public defenders until July 1, helped save a quarter million dollars this year.

Commissioners are also seeing if there's any way to get additional revenue to come into the county next year.

"Commissioner Leon brought forward a plan to try to recoup some revenue that we're not collecting through software that calls people that lets them know you have outstanding fines, hoping to see a little boost there," Judge Escobar said.

Escobar says a major source of uncertainty for next year's budget is the Sheriff's Deputies' Union contract. She hopes potential cuts won't cause the county to lose valuable employees.
Thursday, commissioners also talked about the possibility of asking each county department to provide a cost-benefit analysis. They want to know if there are any programs that can be cut.

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