For too long – many of El Pasoans have gone unnoticed, unprotected, and have been taken for granted.

I left El Paso, the town that welcomed my family from Mexico and gave them the chance to live the American Dream, after high school in search for better opportunities. But when I came back, I found myself in a place that has seen little progress over of the last decades.

Our city has become a place where elected local, state, and federal officials continuously overstep their bounds and fail to protect the interests of our gente. To that I say, Ya basta! Enough is enough!

Rising property taxes in El Paso continue to bring financial hardship to many El Pasoans, specifically those on fixed incomes. El Paso has one of the poorest zip codes in the country, yet, our property taxes have steadily risen to an estimated 14% to 27% since 2011. To make matters worse, one of the five taxing entities responsible for our high property taxes wants to impose a 22% property tax increase for them alone.

University Medical Center, El Paso’s public hospital board of directors agreed to move forward with a $400 million dollar expansion of UMC through Certificates of Obligation (COs), also known as non-voter approved debt. This debt was also voted on and approved by the El Paso County Commissioners Court on June 27th. Their actions will create additional financial burden to El Pasoans in a time when inflation is at 9% and the cost of living continues to rise.

UMC has not been financially sound for several years. In 2008, we were told we needed a children’s hospital and that it would attract world class doctors. Further, we were told people seeking medical attention would travel to El Paso for medical care. Unfortunately, El Pasoans have not seen this come to fruition, and the children’s hospital declared bankruptcy in 2015. Worse, UMC has yet to pay back $48 million dollars owed to El Paso taxpayers.

We feel an additional $400 million dollars will not ensure UMC’s success, but it will increase our tax burden. UMC’s track record has not proven they have become the medical center they envisioned. Allowing UMC these funds will perpetuate an already existing problem which will continue to reoccur and increase El Pasoans’ property taxes without voter approval. This is unjust for the El Paso community.

The issue at hand is about a lack of transparency into how El Pasoans are taxed. We have a right to decide how our hard-earned money is spent, but so far, we have been excluded from that conversation.

Issuing $400 million in COs will not necessarily improve health care. It will, however, perpetuate the burden the El Paso community takes on with more debt and higher property taxes. We deserve transparency and honesty from our elected officials when it comes to issues ranging from taxes to health care.

The LIBRE Initiative has been part of El Paso for 6 years and we will continue to prioritize the needs of our city and remind our elected officials that our communities voices matter. Trying to force our community to grow by taxing and spending isn’t going to work, which is why we are putting together a petition to ensure El Pasoans have a say in both their taxes and care. Please join us in our effort to improve El Paso and bring down the tax burden all of us will pay.

For more information on how you can get involved or to sign the petition opposing the UMC tax rate increase, please contact me, Karla Y. Sierra at Together, we can make a difference. Karla Y. Sierra, MBA

We finally have an opportunity to stand together, fight for what we want and deserve; and send a clear message to those that have overlooked and underappreciated our collective worth. That is why the LIBRE Initiative will continue to unite the community and hold elected officials accountable on issues ranging from taxes to immigration to healthcare.

About Karla Y. Sierra

Sierra is the Grassroots Engagement Director for the El Paso Chapter of the LIBRE Initiative.

About Guest Editorials:

El Paso News is actively seeking and encourages readers to submit guest editorials about any topic related to El Paso. We are currently seeking editorials in support of the University Medical Center of El Paso’s (UMC) certificates of obligation request pending before county commissioners.

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3 replies on “Guest Editorial: Time to get real about Property Taxes & Public Hospitals”

  1. TIME TO “GET REAL” ABOUT THE LIBRE INITIATIVE: The Libre Initiative is a latino front group registered as a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization. According to the group’s website, “LIBRE’s mission is to increase economic freedom and prosperity by promoting free enterprise, responsibility and a more constitutionally limited government.” The group has received over 10 million dollars in funding from organizations linked to the Koch brothers. The Libre Initiative was launched by the group’s current executive director Daniel Garza, a former White House staffer under George W. Bush. According to Media Matters, Libre has said that it “aligns more with Republicans” and “with the principles and ideas of Charles and David Koch.” Despite being officially non-partisan, the Libre Initiative holds conservative positions that are largely in line with the Republican Party, including support for tax cuts, ending the Affordable Care Act, and expanding charter schools. The Associated Press has said that the Libre Initiative is in effect “a shadow GOP — one with a gentle emphasis on social services and assimilation over a central party often seen as hostile to immigrants and minorities.”

  2. So both an interview and an editorial by Ms Sierra? Not that I necessarily disagree with her, but how about running an op-Ed and an interview with somebody who supports the funding to add some balance?

    1. We are actively seeking someone that supports the UMC bond that wishes to write an editorial. Miguel Juárez has reached out to Veronica Escobar’s office but we have not heard back from her. We’ve also heard rumors of a counter-petition but have not been able to confirm it, much less know who is behind it. If anyone knows someone that supports the UMC bond, please let us know at news[@]

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