Cultural Center: Why Should the Taxpayers Pay for It?
On Friday, I shared with you how the cultural center name issue has not been settled yet. I also let you know that I would be addressing the issue of whether the taxpayers should be paying for it. That is the other significant discussion point about the proposed cultural center. The discussions range from the taxpayers should not be paying for any cultural center to the taxpayers shouldn’t pay for an Hispanic-focused cultural center.
To address this, let me take you back to the ordinance funding the baseball stadium. Unlike, the cultural center, the voters did not approve paying for a ballpark.
The exact language used in Ordinance 017850 “An ordinance ordering a special election to be held in the City of El Paso, Texas on November 6, 2012, for a venue project and imposing Hotel Occupancy Tax, making provisions for the conduct of the election, and resolving other matters incident and related to such election.”
The ordinance adds that the city designated “a multipurpose coliseum, stadium or other type of arena or facility that is planned for use for one or more professional or amateur sports events, including minor league baseball games (the ‘Stadium Project’) and related infrastructure.”
I believe we can all agree that the target for the funds was the baseball stadium.
The ballot, that voters actually voted on, states “authorizing the City of El Paso, Texas, to designate the minor league baseball stadium project as a sports and community venue project within the city in accordance with applicable law and to impose a tax on the occupancy of a room in a hotel located within the city, at the maximum rate of two percent (25) of the price paid for such room, for the purpose of financing such venue project.”
A plain reading of the ballot language clearly lays out that the voters approved a “minor league baseball stadium” to be financed by imposing a two percent tax on hotel occupants. Supporters of the ballpark have relied on the passage of this proposition to argue that the ballpark was approved by the voters.
What the voters actually approved was using HOT taxes to fund the ballpark. They did not approve using property taxes to fund the project, including the debt. Yet, the taxpayers of the city are funding the ballpark. The taxpayers are projected to fund it for the next few years, even on a best-case scenario.
The cultural center, on the other handed, was clearly to be funded by the taxpayers of the city. The ordinance and the ballot both stated as such. There is no ambiguity there. Therefore, the question of whether the taxpayers should be funding a cultural center is moot because they approved it.
As a matter of fact, 71.7% of the voters approved funding the cultural center proposition. Only 60% approved using the HOT taxes to fund the ballpark. Clearly, funding for the cultural center was approved by the votes and they agreed to pay for it.
Thus, the argument of whether the taxpayers should pay for it cannot be argued anymore. This is especially true for the ardent supporters of the ballpark who are ignoring the fact that the voters never approved paying for the ballpark.