Impact taxes are pretty much a done deal and Leeser is likely a one term mayor since he morphed into Steve Ortega. I'm not here to argue for against that tax. I am here to point out something interesting.
There were some thoughtful comments yesterday on my piece that laid the realities associated with growth and taxing that growth. The anti-growth crowd all of a sudden has a deep love for the PSB and are willing to protect the entity from criticism - at least when it comes to this issue.
It's astounding that people don't understand what they are paying for when they get their water bill. Only a small portion of that bill goes to pay for direct usage. The rest of the price in rectangular box under the words "you owe" is for future maintenance and expansion. The PSB is already charging you for growth and has been for years. I think it's odd that you anti-growth people would support their effort to double dip. You guys also ignore the fact that they have a billion dollar real estate portfolio on top of those cash reserves. At what point to you think your local government has too much of YOUR money tied up doing nothing?
Your eagerness to suspend your own liberty in the name of your selfish anti-growth policy is confusing.
Also, this idea that folks living in older homes pay for new growth has been proven wrong time and time again. Like I've written many times before - when is the last time you saw a line item on your water bill that said "new growth?" You haven't. As much as El Paso's borders have expanded and land developed over the last 15 years, you've had a relatively stable tax rate and incrementally tolerable increases in utility prices (which is inevitable). Your own reality is the best argument against your claims.
And let's be honest - using your own incorrect assertion that you pay for growth, you're a breaker of your own rules. A hypocrite! Unless you live in one of the original missions down in the valley - somebody paid for you to live where you live. That is if you're assertion about who pays for was correct. It is not and you are the best example as to why. I think it's funny that it was okay for your neighborhood to be built, but you are denying others that same privilege.
And let's talk about taxes and fees. The word "fee" is a nice way of saying "tax." You pay $.38 per gallon of gas to the State of Texas and the United States government. Because we dislike the price of gas, we call it a "tax." It could be easily called a "fee" because the money is being collected to maintain a convenience provided by the government (roads). It is not supposed to go to fund government endeavors unrelated to transportation. The legal opinions on this are numerous but all pretty much in agreement - a fee is charged for a direct government action. You buy gas - you must be using roads. When you pay your building permit fees you are paying directly for the time and effort of a government employee. The money is to go to fund that direct service to you.
Now, if the Impact Taxes were going to be used directly for a service to that specific homeowner - they'd be correctly called "Impact Fees." The problem here is that $3,000 fee goes into a slush fund and there's no direct discernible service being provided with that cash. Remember, the developer pays for all the pipe in the ground - the PSB does not provide it or install it.
If a certain new development required a new water storage tank or a special waste water treatment plant the Impact Fee would go directly to that. That passes the test for a "fee" quite easily. However, charging every new homeowner $3,000 whether a service is provided or not is plainly a tax.
I'm all on board for an Impact Fee as long as the homeowner gets a direct benefit from it.
I will tell you that I know of many cases where the PSB forces developers to pay directly for these improvements. They say "if you want to put ten houses on the top of this hill, you're going to have to buy us a some fancy new pumps before we'll let you." The taxpayer is never hit with that cost.
So, if you're keeping score here - the PSB makes developers pay for their growth directly and now they want to also charge a tax per house under the guise of "paying for growth." It's called double dipping and it's wrong.
Increasing the number of people you can charge to use your service is a capital cost that all private entities bear. Why? Because growth more than pays for itself.
A cellular telephone company never asked subscribers in a certain area to directly pay to put up a cell tower. The company erected the tower in order to increase the number of people giving them money each month. The PSB should be doing the same thing and YOU should welcome it.
Would you like to share the cost of pumping water out of the ground with a lot of people, or do you want to pay for it all by yourself?
Now we're understanding why expanding the tax base is a great thing.
Huge bond issues were not sought and passed because of growth. El Paso's lack of growth for 30 years and string of stingy mayors for even longer led to the decaying parks, roads and other government owned amenities. Miserly mayors of the past would have done us a favor to have spurred along new development which would have expanded the tax base with more valuable properties levy a tax on. Instead, they kept taxes low and discouraged development and growth. There was simply no money to improve parks or schedule routine maintenance on roads.
Taxpayers had to vote to raise taxes on themselves in exchange for upgrades. That bond money isn't getting spent in new neighborhoods at all. New growth will require zero tax dollars for at least 20 years for maintenance. Construction standards set forth by the local government and generally better materials allow for these new developments to be tax givers instead of tax suckers for a very long time. These new subdivisions are not your daddy's subdivisions of old.
If anything, the new growth gets screwed by the bond issues. They're paying for parks and streets in YOUR neighborhood that they don't use. And guess what - they're paying more for it than you are because their houses are valued higher than yours. Without all this new growth paying the bulk of your bond bill, your streets would still be rotting and your parks dying.
I think all of you should be taking a drive into new neighborhoods and thanking those people for paying to fix up your old neighborhood. Without them you'd either not have the improvements or you'd be paying through the nose for them.