Government officials may not want to accept this and they may not even comprehend it intellectually, but keeping Covid-19 clusters secret is about staving off the debt crisis facing El Paso. As of January 2020, El Paso taxpayers owe $3,900 each for debt incurred by the City for Quality of Life projects, non-voter approved infrastructure and things like the ballpark. In total, the City is in debt for about $1.5 billion.
The City of El Paso has less than $800 million in assets to cover the debt. It needs taxes to make the debt payments. Most of the taxes comes from property taxes paid for by homeowners and renters alike. Bridge fees, water fees and sales taxes also help make the debt payments.
Sales tax revenues are down by almost $12 million. Almost 200 city employees have been furloughed so far.
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted sales tax revenues and hotel taxes, leaving the property owners to shore up the shortfalls. To do so, El Paso leaders need El Pasoans to go to work. That way, El Pasoans can continue to make mortgage and rent payments which leads to taxes paid to the city.
Yesterday, the city council voted to keep secret the clusters of Covid-19 outbreaks. The City argues that they need to keep it secret due to privacy concerns. However, other Texas cities are releasing the data.
City council is also looking to cut $70 million in spending for the next fiscal year. It is expected to adopt its new budget on August 18.
The driving factor behind keeping the Coronavirus clusters secret is to keep call centers operating even if outbreaks are to occur. Call centers are one of El Paso’s largest employers. El Paso leaders know that they cannot afford to keep call centers and other businesses closed if they hope to avert a financial crisis for the city.