City Council members voted unanimously Monday evening to call for council member elections in three of the wards and to hold a citywide referendum that will allow part of the sales tax to be used on city streets.
There was some controversy over the original election four years ago when council members first proposed using part of the 4B sales tax money to maintain streets.
State legislators authorized cities to collect an additional 1 percent sales tax to fund economic development when they passed The Development Corporation Act of 1979.
The act called for cities to create economic development corporations which would review business creation and assistance programs and then make recommendations to city governmental bodies on how to use the proceeds of the tax.
Projects must receive final approval by the City Council.
The law eventually was changed to allow cities to use a portion of that money for the creation of a street maintenance fund, if the voters approved it.
Council members gave city voters that opportunity four years ago and residents approved it overwhelmingly. Currently, one-eighth of 1 percent, or a little more than $200,000 a year, goes into that fund.
Money from that fund has been used in recent years primarily for seal coating city streets.
However, the use of that money for street maintenance must be re-approved by the voters every four years.
By their vote Tuesday, council members have given city residents the opportunity to approve that program for another four years.
Three council members also are facing expiring terms in May. Those are Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez in Ward 2, Councilman John Govella Fulghum in Ward 3 and Councilman David Carabajal in Ward 4.
City residents interested in filing for one of the council seats may do so now. The deadline for filing will be March 5.
Council candidates do not have to live in the ward for which they are running.
City Secretary Imelda Bernardo said ballots will be printed on March 22, and March 28 will be the first day to file for a mail-in ballot. Voters who wish to cast ballots by mail must apply for them by May 4. Those ballots must be received at City Hall by the morning of May 12 to be counted.
Early voting by personal appearance will begin at City Hall on April 30, and will end on May 8 at 5 p.m.
Bernardo said the early voting dates may change, depending on when the city receives preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice for the new ward lines.
However, she does not expect any delays. She said the city expects to have preclearance for the new ward boundaries within two weeks.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.