County Judge, Veronica Escobar

  • Escobar hopes that teaming up trims costs
  • By Erica Molina Johnson / El Paso Times

    Just as buying in bulk saves El Pasoans money atmembers-only warehouse stores, local leaders are hoping they can get better deals on items they all need by getting together and buying them en masse.

  • County Commissioner Veronica Escobar is speaking to all of the area's taxing entities in hope they will agree to come together to find ways to save money by working together.

  • "The response has been very positive," she said.

  • So far she has presented to and received approval from eight of those entities, including the county, city, Thomason Hospital and Ysleta Independent School District.

  • Two school districts were set to receive the presentation last night.

  • "We're not doing a good enough job of finding cost savings," Escobar said.

  • The taxing entities that have passed resolutions have agreed to look for areas during their summer budget sessions where they may be able to work collaboratively. They will then come together in the fall at a shared services summit to find common areas where they could save money.

  • "I'm hoping that it turns out to be a success," Ysleta Trustee Liza Montelongo said. "All our school districts are really short of money. If we can find a way to share some of the services and the cost, it will benefit not only the school districts, but the taxpayers."

  • Escobar said taxpayers pay for some items over and over, possibly funding a similar expense at the county, their municipality, the hospital district, their school district and El Paso Community College.

  • "We don't have to have absolute consolidation in order to achieve savings," Escobar said. "In fact, in some cases consolidation would not be wise."

  • She said some of the smaller school districts may not find it in their best interests to consolidate with the larger districts for some needs, but the conversation could still take place regarding other issues.

  • "I believe if all we achieve is one win, and let's say that win is that we all decide to purchase gasoline together ... one win can save the taxpayers millions of dollars," Escobar said. "As long as we're realistic and we understand that this is going to be a long-term process, but that we maintain some high expectations and high level of commitment, I think it will be a great beginning to some future partnerships."

  • Escobar said good examples for possible shared services are data centers. The county is considering constructing an off-site data center to house county records.

  • "Then I found out Thomason is building one, EPISD is thinking of building one, the city may either build one or lease one out through the private sector, Region 19 built one and then the county is in the process of potentially building one," she said. "Instead of having one data center, we could potentially have five or more, which is a tremendous waste of resources."

  • She said costs associated with such a center include the building, utilities, equipment, high-tech heating and cooling system, security, and wiring.

  • "Could we do a better job? Absolutely, and the data center is a perfect example of that," Escobar said.

  • She said every entity would be asked to pick an elected official and staff member who can be the point of contact on the project. Once the fiscal year 2009 budgets are passed, the interested stakeholders will participate in the summit, with assistance from another governmental office.

  • "Through the budget process you really do need someone who has this at the forefront of the conversation about current planning and future planning," Escobar said.

  • Socorro Mayor Trini Lopez said he looked forward to the conversation.

  • "If we are going to start sitting for discussions, something good might come of it," he said. "I'm very open to possibilities like these, and I really hope something can be done."

  • Erica Molina Johnson may be reached at;546-6132.

  • County Judge
    Veronica Escobar