DALLAS — El Paso County, Texas, commissioners Monday approved the development of a five-year capital improvement program to identify and finance needed long-term assets.

The plan is to be in place by fiscal 2013, and will be updated annually when commissioners develop the budget for the next fiscal year.

The cost of the effort won’t be determined until a complete inventory of county facilities and assets is completed, said county administrator Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria.

Departments have until April 15 to submit projects to a committee that will review and rank the proposals.

The review committee is to give its recommendations on projects and how to finance them to commissioners in July.

The fiscal 2013 budget, which will incorporate the first year of the CIP, must be adopted by Oct. 1.

El Paso County’s $148 million of outstanding general obligation debt is rated double-A by all three major credit-rating agencies.. The county of 800,000 residents in far west Texas has a tax base of $42 billion.

The county includes El Paso, the sixth-largest city in the state, and Fort Bliss, which is expected to receive an additional 34,000 troops by 2013 as a result of military base realignment.

Projects in the first year of the five-year plan adopted by commissioners will be considered “approved,” while those in the final four years will only be “planned.” The review process will occur each year, Arrieta-Candelaria said.

She said the plan is “a step in the right direction.”

“This is a planning tool that will allow us to create a comprehensive process to look at all our projects in a way that makes the most sense,” she added.

Large capital projects, such as park improvements and roads, would be financed with voter-approved GOs, according to Arrieta-Candelaria. “Taking these projects to the voters is a way to ensure the public is engaged,” she said.

The capital plan will rely on certificates of obligation and revenue bonds for smaller projects as well as vehicles, computers, and other equipment expected to be serviceable for five years or more.

County Judge Veronica Escobar said the long-term capital plan will enable the county to plan how to best use its facilities and its finances.

“This is very exciting, and I think it is symbolic of the new El Paso County,” she said.

“I was here the last time we had a bond initiative, and it was very frustrating,” she said. “It was very arbitrary in nature, and it was not thoughtful.”

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