Today the El Paso County Commissioners Court voted 4-0 to delete agenda item 11, which called for posting a notice of intent to issue a certificate of obligation in the amount of $100 million. See the report by Cindy Ramirez of El Paso Matters.

The staff presentation begins at 1:49:50 on the County YouTube video and includes a long discussion of how issuing the new debt will not increase our property tax rate because of the retirement of old bonds.

13 taxpaying citizens took time out of their day, beginning at 3:06:50, to speak forcefully against the CO issuance and demand that the debt instead be placed on a ballot as a general obligation bond..

The first speaker was Karla Sierra of the Libre Initiative, who recently led the effort to kill the UMC’s $346 million CO issuance, gathering 32,311 valid signatures in only six weeks. She made it very clear that she was prepared to launch a new petition drive to terminate the current CO if the Court voted to move forward today.

165,234 ballots were cast on November 8 and 5% of that figure—only 8,263 signatures—would be required to stop the current CO. That would easily be achievable within three weeks.

Commissioner Iliana Holguin of Precinct 3 took a strong stance against the CO issuance and, with strong backing from the public, convinced her colleagues to table the CO, engage in more public outreach, and explore alternative revenue instruments for the County’s pressing needs.

She even suggested that the County could potentially lower its tax by borrowing less, providing property owners with some financial relief.

I predicted in a recent guest column I wrote for the El Paso Times that “the days of certificates of obligation are over” because Section 271.049(c) of the Texas Local Government Code was amended in 2019 to enable citizens to challenge CO issuances by petition.

Let us hope that our taxing entities, especially our profligate City, will stop abusing this immoral debt instrument and put all major debt issuances to a vote so that petitions will no longer be necessary.

Our Commissioners Court did the right thing today and listened to the concerns of their constituents. Please take a moment to send them a note of thanks:;;;;