El Paso has been notorious for driving businesses out of town through nickel and diming them with fees or ill-conceived regulatory policies driven by the “feel-good” ideals that have been detrimental to businesses. Many in the community forget that businesses do not pay fees or taxes but rather it is the taxpayer of the community that pays them. What happens is that businesses will eventually run out of customers resulting in them either moving their operations away from El Paso or going out of business. The latest business detriment is the water franchise fee imposed by the current city council.

Instead of looking to cut costs in the city’s budget and facing the reality that the public policy agenda that has indebted the city; the city council, led by Cortney Niland, decided that a franchise fee would bail the city out of this budget cycle fiasco. The pontificating coming out of city council was that it did not raise taxes when in reality all it did was raise the prices consumers, also known as the taxpayers, pay for goods and services.

A reader kindly shared with me their latest water bill. Take a close look at it. The much-touted solution to rising debt payments and the inability to reduce city costs was the imposition of a water fee on local businesses. Notice how the franchise fee, on this particular water bill, is about 50% ($15.97 + $8.06 + $7.80) of the water consumed by this business. In other words, the business is paying a “fee” equal to 50% of its water usage.

Even if we were to add the sewer fee, the business is paying 25% of its consumption for the franchise fee. When the politicians pontificate about the needs of the community and how they hold the line on taxes they usually argue, it is only a few cents here and there. As you can see, those “cents” are a significant portion of the total bill the city imposes on this business.

Even more egregious is when you factor in the other “fee” the city has imposed on the consumers, the storm water fee. Look at the water bill again. Notice how the franchise fee and the storm water fee accounts for about 30% of the total water bill. As you look at the remnants of the latest flooding keep in mind that the storm water fee was supposed to resolve that for you. Remember it is a fee you have been paying for the last six years.

Niland and cohorts on city council will argue that the taxpayer was spared a tax increase this time around conveniently forgetting that the “fee”, better known as tax, will be paid for by the consumers who are the taxpayers of the community. Oscar Leeser pontificates about opening the door to businesses while ignoring that city council salivates at another fee they can impose on them.

A 25% hit on any bill is egregious especially when the underlining problem has not been addressed – the city’s willy-nilly spending habits. The next time a politician pontificates that it is only a pizza or it’s a fee paid for by others remember how much the fee really costs you, the taxpayer.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “Nickel and Diming Businesses to Death”

  1. Cut city spending and start by eliminating administrative jobs in Planning, FS, HR. Or, mandate across the board payroll reduction of 5% to start. Do it again next budget cycle.

    1. That would be OK except that most city and county employees do not make that much. When you factor in the “benefits” that they pay for, several would qualify for welfare. Most of our fiscal problems started after we decided to on a city manager style of government. Salaries and benefits for city employees have been going backwards. The”progressives”on council feel that they have to drag us kicking and screaming into the future, because we don’t know what’s good for us ourselves. I don’t mind qualify of life bonds but blowing up city hall to build a stadium downtown that will not ever pay for itself was stupid to say the least.

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