City Manager Sandra Martinez addressed councilmen, “The appraisal district’s effective rate as of today is .56838 per $100. The tax levy will be $357,334 with zero additional tax level. Even, if we don’t go up on the tax rate there is still, according to the appraisal district, a tax levy increase of $6,623.”
After much discussion, councilman voted on a proposed three cents per $100 valuation increase because the city will soon need a new fire truck. A three-cent increase will bring in just over $25,000 additional revenue.
“I told my constituents when I ran for office that taxes would probably have to go up,” said Councilman Jim McGee.
“We haven’t had an increase in three years. Even though it is not much, a little bit will help. The tax increase won’t even cover a dogcatcher providing you collect all of it,” added McGee.
The city of George West collects about 92 percent of their taxes and the county collects 98 percent. “Our collection rate is not too bad, but we are not the best in the county either,” Martinez said.
For a home valued at $50,000 the expected increase would be $15 per year if a three cents per $100 valuation rate increase is passed.
“Keep in mind this is a ‘proposed’ tax rate. It does not necessarily mean the taxes will go up until after the hearings. After the budget is drawn you might decide you only need to go up two cents. The reason we have to do this at this time is because we have to post this in The Progress in a timely manner,” Martinez added.
A budget workshop was held on Aug. 19 and a special meeting for the first reading of the tax rate and budget workshop was held on Aug. 23.
A public hearing notice indicating place and time will be placed at the appraisal office on Aug. 25 with a public hearing on the budget set for Aug. 26.
The first public hearing of the tax rate will be held on Sept. 2. The second public hearing on the tax rate will be held on Sept. 7 with second reading of the budget/approval of the budget to be held either Sept. 10 or Sept. 13.
Adoption of a tax rate will be held during the regular city council meeting of Sept. 20.
In other city news, George West officials passed the final reading of the amended garbage rate ordinance effectively raising the price of garbage pickup by $1.66.
City Manager Sandra Martinez read a portion of a letter sent by Allied Waste telling the city that they can adjust rates “upward or downward as reflected in the consumer price index.”
Martinez said, “Basically they are saying they can increase or decrease rates. As Councilman Jim McGee suggested at a previous meeting, we should look into hiring another company when their contract ends in 2012. We are looking at Absolute or Camacho Recycling out of Beeville and trying to see if we can break our contract with Allied because they did not give us 90-days notice.”
Councilman Tom Iley said, “I believe we discussed in previous meeting to wait out the contract. The proposal on table is an increase for garbage of $1.66.”
Martinez answered yes, “It was $23.12 and now it is $24.78. We are already paying the higher rate. You all need to vote on the rate.”
Councilman McGee spoke up, “Well, it looks like we don’t have a choice.”
During a telephone interview, Mayor Sylvia Steele said, “I guarantee you, as soon as Allied’s contract is up we are going to find another waste company. It is not right that they are raising their rates midway through the contract.”
Reluctantly councilmen approved the rate hike and moved on to consider repealing existing ordinances that pertain to the removal of junked vehicles.
“This came about because our code enforcement officer [Officer Chris Carter] is trying to take care of the problem we have with junk vehicles. Our attorney said there have been amendments in the Legislature with regards to junk vehicles. The city incorporated and updated the changes by adding verbiage. Once this is passed a notice will be placed in The Progress and we can move forward with removal of junked vehicles,” Martinez said.
City officials next considered a request for reimbursement from TxDOT Area Engineer Chris Caron for a construction claim.
“The purpose of my visit tonight is discuss briefly something we encountered on the construction project on U.S. 59. We are building a new bridge and one of the places where we are going to place a foundation we found a city water line, which is a utility conflict,” Caron said.
The city has the option to move the line, but if they do, it could potentially cost them more to do it than to have TxDOT re-engineer the project. In the meantime, TxDOT’s contractor has the option to cease operation, which could cost thousands of dollars.
Councilmen determined they would authorize City Manager Martinez to negotiate compensation to TxDOT for the project.