Rally Today at the Courthouse to Ask the Commissioners to Vote No on the Ban- The Ban Will Hurt the Number One Fundraiser for Charities in El Paso and Will Hurt Non-Profits in a Bad Economy
El Paso, Texas – Non-profits across El Paso today are urging the El Paso Commissioner’s Court to vote no on banning fireworks in El Paso over the 4th of July Holiday. One non-profit leader says one of his senior girls received an $110,000 scholarship to Louisiana State University. A scholarship she would not have received without money from fireworks sales. He also says other students may not be able to receive important scholarships from major universities if the county bans fireworks. The money raised from fireworks sales pays for their uniforms, travel and other necessary items that allow students to travel to other cities and compete and be recognized by college scouts.
“We believe the children of El Paso will be negatively impacted by this fireworks ban. The money we raise leading up to the Forth of July Holiday helps El Paso kids travel to compete with other sports teams across the state,” said Mike Padilla, a teacher at Ricardo Estrada Junior High and leader of a non-profit called “Team Swish” that allows El Paso girls to travel to basketball competitions. His girls travel team just qualified for Nationals and banning fireworks will hurt their ability to compete and pay the costs associated with the travel and entry fees.
“We believe there is no danger of a major fire from fireworks and this ban will stop our students from receiving opportunities of getting a first class education at major universities. He says another one of his seniors received a scholarship from Colorado and that would not have happened without fireworks sales to pay for travel to get in front of leading scouts from major universities,” said Padilla.
There are about 30 TNT Fireworks locations around El Paso country that sell fireworks. The sales of the fireworks benefit non-profits. Most of the sales go to help students in El Paso County. The money goes to football, volleyball, swim, softball, basketball, baseball, track, cheerleading and wrestling teams and funds Native American projects for the Native American Alliance.
“The sale of fireworks is the number one fundraiser for many non-profits and the ban is going to hurt students and the non-profits who serve them in a bad economy. We have cooperated fully and gone above and beyond when there is a legitimate fire danger. We believe the county judge is wrong on the level of drought in El Paso. We are not in extreme danger. El Paso is shown as high, not very high and not extreme. In addition, we believe there was not appropriate public notice,” said Fernando Viramontes, of TNT Fireworks in El Paso.
In addition, the statistics do not support the ban. Although the El Paso Times reported that Judge Escobar announced she will declare a disaster and ban the sale and use of all fireworks “due to severe drought conditions”, the numbers do not support it.
Drought is measured by a statewide drought index known as the Keetch-Byrum Drought Index (“KBDI”). KDBI 575 and over, State Law allows the County to ban
stick rockets and missiles and the fireworks industry supported that action. The El Paso County KBDI has been 615 or higher on June 11th for the past 12 years, and El Paso County has had an average KBDI of almost 600 on the Fourth of July for the past 12 years.
The KBDI does not take into account local conditions. In other words, El Paso County is routinely in a “drought” without there being a disaster or emergency. Despite all the talk of a disaster due to drought, there are no statistics to support problems with fireworks over the past 12 years.
There are statistics to support the loss to business when a total ban is in place.
What is known for certain is that in these hard economic times, local charities, school activity groups, scholarship programs, churches, and other important community organizations lose an important source of income.
Established businesses in the County also suffer financial loss. The El Paso Times reported that the businesses along Montana Avenue lost an estimated $1.5 million in total combined revenue after fireworks were banned during the 2011 Fourth of July season.
Fireworks sales in El Paso County are estimated at over $3,000,000 annually. Factoring in other supporting industries such as rental equipment, freight, trucks, drivers, utilities, etc., estimated revenue of an additional $3,000,000 brings the total economic impact to $6,000,000. The County receives 1% back from the State in sales tax revenue for an approximate $60,000 loss due to a total ban on fireworks. In addition, fireworks retailers collect another 2% tax called the fireworks tax, which is collected and reported to the State. This tax goes into a special fund set aside for volunteer fire departments’ use in purchasing equipment and other needs.
With the exception of 2011, fireworks have been sold and used in El Paso County by citizens of El Paso County. Local non-profits benefitted as well as local businesses. Fireworks represent 1/15 of 1% of all fires in Texas.