Mayor Margo says upcoming tax hike was set before he took office

Mayor Dee Margo (KFOX14/CBS4)

Mayor Dee Margo promised to keep taxes low during his campaign trail but says his hands are tied when it comes to this year’s tax hikes.

In a community meeting Wednesday, the mayor said the tax hike was set before he stepped into office.

Margo was invited to the community meeting at the Eastside Senior Center to talk about specifically about taxes.

He said because of the voter approved contracts the city has with police and fire departments, City Council has no choice but to raise taxes.

“It will be 3.93 cents per $100 valuation raise in there. Primarily to cover on the operational budget to cover police and fire contracts. So 15 million for contracts that were approved by the voters,” Margo said.

This is a different note than what he said when he was campaigning to take the mayoral seat.

Margo sat down with KFOX14 after being elected and said he wanted to keep taxes down.

"I didn't campaign on lowering taxes I never said that. I didn't know what I was walking into. I said I didn't want to raise taxes unless we absolutely have to do and I would prefer not to and I thought there would be ways to save dollars. Giving the magnitude of what we're looking, at I'm not sure there is another alternative,” Margo said Tuesday.

The mayor also discussed his meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month. Abbott has been a vocal critic of a Senate bill to lower the cap for the amount cities can raise taxes on citizens without putting it to a vote.

Currently, it sits at 8 percent.

The Senate bill would drop that cap to a 4 percent tax hike. But City Councilmember Cassandra Hernandez Brown and the mayor said that would end up costing El Paso more in the end because they would have to hold more elections just to be able to fund things like emergency personnel.

Margo said the tax hikes aren’t ideal but there is not much the city can do.

“None of it is OK. I'm not going to say it's OK, but we have no choice. If you want the police out on the streets and if you want them in vehicles that are functioning and able to respond to the needs of 911, that is what we're left with. We've got to deal with that. We have no choice. If we had other choices, I'd probably be taking them.”

The city’s budget is approved on Aug. 22 and homeowners will likely see their taxes go up in the near future.

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