El Paso County programs could get cut if state takes away funding from sanctuary cities

El Paso city and county leaders are bracing for potential financial turmoil if the state enacts Senate Bill 4, which would punish sanctuary cities.

The sanctuary cities bill, more commonly referred to as SB4, could cost as much as $130,000 for the city and millions for the county.

The Texas Legislative Budget Board said the city’s costs would come from arresting and processing more people.

County Commissioner David Stout said the county auditor and budget teams estimate losses for the county at more than $14 million if El Paso is deemed a sanctuary community.

County and city leaders said they are trying to plan ahead for the added costs, but Stout said the effects could be drastic.

“If we lost that amount from one year to the next, we would have to raise our tax rate by four pennies or 9 percent to generate that amount of funding to be able to keep programs running,” Stout said.

Nancy Bartlett, chief performance officer for the city, said there are already issues when several things need to be funded.

But the general fund would be the source for the potential costs.

"That literally means that something doesn't get funded,” Bartlett said. “We only have X amount of dollars. People think about magic money and we don't have it. We wish that we did."

Bartlett said if everything has to be funded it could result in a tax raise; if the council signs off on it.

“We prefer not to think about that. But yeah, sometimes we have 20 things and all of them have to get funded. If we don’t have the funding, then we turn to council and say, 'This might be your recommendation as to whether or not we have a tax increase,” Bartlett said.

Some of the programs that could get cut if the county loses grant money include domestic violence courts and drug rehab programs.

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