EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council has unanimously approved the 2017-2018 budget in the amount of $896,357,226.
Homeowners will see their city tax bill increase about five percent. The tax increase impact on a $100,000 home will be $803.43. That is $43.78 more than last year.
At Tuesday's meeting representatives approved a tax rate of 0.803, which is a little more than 80 cents for every $100 dollars of property value. That number is up from 0.759 last year.
The new budget maintains property tax relief for seniors and disabled homesteads.
El Paso mayor Dee Margo said he had hoped not to have to raise taxes, but the city was left with little choice.
"What I walked into here was commitments that have already been made. It wasn't so much inefficiencies, it was commitments that were made. So those commitments were made to people, police and fire. So consequently, we really didn't have a whole lot of choice. I guess my surprise or disappointment was this was really planned last year. It was expected," Margo said.
The budget reflects pay raises for police officers and firefighters as well as a vehicle replacement plan for Police and Fire. The city plans to replace 300 police cars. This budget includes funds for the first phase of patrol cars to be purchased. The city will also hold a police academy for 94 cadets instead of the proposed 80.
Robert Cortinas is the city's budget office.
"I think one of the big things is public safety. You heard today that we are ranked the second safest city behind New York City. One of the things the community is known for, El Paso is recognized nationally for being a safe city. That doesn't come free. It's one of the largest cost drivers we see every year," Cortinas said.
At Monday's special city council meeting, representatives made some last-minute budget requests.
Claudia Ordaz succeeded in securing $168,000 to add 350 baby changing stations to men's and women's restrooms in the city.
The city also added $250,000 to fund efforts to make streets compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The total is now $500,000 for fiscal year 2018.
An addition of $103,000 was made to improve a pedestrian path on Brown Street near Rim Road. Rep. Peter Svarzbein said the area has been dangerous for decades. He said a woman was recently hospitalized after falling down a 100-foot cliff.
City officials say 60 Quality of Life Bond projects will be completed by August 31. 21 more projects are slated to be completed in the upcoming year.