While the tax rate has gone down some, higher appraisals have skyrocketed, and will bring in substantially more tax revenue. The proposed tax rate, which is the highest allowed without holding an election will be .4743. Total property tax revenues under this rate will raise $23.7 Million, about 7% or $1.5 million more than the previous fiscal year. The average taxable value of a home in Medina County increasd from $190K to $215K, an increase of about $25,444 or 13.38% increase. The local Pct. 4 county commisioner urges residents to voice their opinions. “You are going to hear how low the Tax Rate is and how it has gone down each year for the past several years. But remember that our Property Appraisals are higher than they have ever been,” said Comissioner Jerry Beck. “Our taxes have never gone down or even leveled off.”
By Anton Riecher The Medina County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Aug. 25 to approve a resolution in support of Texas governor Greg Abbott continuing opposition to illegal immigration across the state’s border with Mexico. “Now therefore be it resolved that the Medina County Commissioners Court recognizes the failure of the federal government to perform its duties and supports Governor Abbott’s actions to attempt to Secure the Texas Border,” the resolution states. Timothy Neuman, precinct 1 commissioner, made the motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Larry Sittre, precinct 2 commissioner. However, County Judge Chris Schuchart stood firm in his opposition to the legal wording of a “declaration of invasion” supported by other Texas counties and elected officials that cites the U.S. Constitution as granting states the power to expel migrants crossing the border in the event of invasion. Schuchart, who made his opposition clear at the commissioners’ Aug. 11 meeting, restated his position to supporters of the original “declaration” version of the anti-illegal immigration document. “The document that you want us to pass is flawed,” Schuchart said. “It basically doesn’t follow the law. It cites five different footnotes that I can only confirm one of them to be fact.” At the root of the impasse is the definition of the word “invasion” as accepted by U.S. Courts.
“The Supreme Court has never overruled three federal appellate courts who say an invasion is not illegal immigrants coming across,” Schuchart said. “We all agree we have a huge problem but it doesn’t fit the definition of an invasion.” Abbott, himself a former attorney general of the state, has taken no formal action on the declarations. Schuchart, a retired attorney, also took issue with the proclaiming the document a declaration rather than a resolution. Of the 18 counties that have taken a position on the “invasion” issue, six have chosen to pass resolutions rather than declarations. “There is a difference between a declaration of invasion and a resolution,” he said. “We will pass a resolution.” Speaking in support of the original “declaration,” Hank Seay of La Coste said the present immigration situation “definitely fits my definition of an invasion.” To call it anything else amounted to “playing semantics.” “I understand that politics always seems to get in the way and muddy the waters,” Seay said. “I believe that’s exactly what has happened here.” Robert Oberlender of Natalia and David Logan also spoke in support of the “invasion” declaration. “I think it’s an invasion regardless of the terminology and the definition of the word,” Logan said. Mona Walters, another declaration supporter, inferred that refusal to back the original language amounted to an attack on Medina County Republican Party chairperson Julie Clark who spoke in favor of the declaration at the Aug. 11 meeting. “Members of our Republican party who support Julie Clark have become alarmed,” Walters said. “Several have called and told me that threats have been made against Julie and her husband.” Schuchart said he and the commissioners were on the same side as the declaration supporters on the anti-illegal immigration issue. “We are all Republicans,” Schuchart said. “Everybody sitting (on the commissioners’ court) is a Republican. But for some reason the tactics that are being used against us are astonishing to me…” Passage of an anti-illegal immigration resolution will not save citizens threatened by crime in the county, he said. “That man over there (pointing to Sheriff Randy Brown) and his staff will save citizens,” Schuchart said. To aid in that effort, the commissioners have added six new deputies to the sheriff’s office, plus three more school reserve officers (in Medina Valley ISD schools) who, during the summer, become part of the sheriff’s staff, Schuchart said. The county is also buying the sheriff 14 more emergency vehicles. “We are spending money to protect the citizens,” Schuchart said. You can watch our video coverage of the meeting at: https://youtu.be/vHNS1kR4nKo
By Anton Riecher and Kayleen Holder Opposition to a rumored solar panel farm being planned in Moore brought a capacity crowd together Thursday evening (Aug. 25) at the local community center. Ray Freitas, manager of the Moore Water Supply Corporation, told the audience that a neighbor on Black Creek Road/CR 1660 had confirmed leasing acreage for a solar farm, sometimes referred to as a photovoltaic power station, using a large array of solar panels to convert sunlight into electrical energy. In an interview afterward, Freitas expressed the concern that “one of the properties leased is part of the Black Creek system and could possibly contaminate the watershed.” A landowner in the area, Darla Bacon, explained that in all, the solar farm project could span close to 600 acres. “Solar farms form what’s called a thermal heat island effect, which increases temperature. I am surrounded on three sides so I will be right in the middle of that. It can increase temperature by 5 to 7 degrees,” Bacon said. “I am going to lose my dove hunting operation, and I am probably going to lose my cattle operation too. I have talked to a man in Deport,Tx who lives near a solar farm like this, and he said the humming sound that it makes is another thing that has driven people nuts. Replacing land with photovoltaic panels will likely increase runoff volume and reduce recharge for our water tables.” Local bee keeper David Park also lives near the proposed solar projects. “The biggest thing I am worried about is how it will de-value my property. We live in a house on a hill and can see for miles. We have lived here for 17 years. Who wants to look down on 500 acres of solar panels?” Like most residents, Graves Wallace, had more questions rather than answers. “Well, it’s certainly not something that you would expect to happen right next door to you. I did not see it coming. How will it affect the value of my property? What are the effects to our environment? And what are my rights? I truly don’t know. Those are questions I haven’t been able to find a positive answer to. One thing is for sure, time will tell us.” When it comes to progress, Wallace said, “Electricity is great. Technology is great. But that old hand-crank ice cream maker–it always works.” Moore VFD Fire Chief JD Earls has his own concerns on the firefighting side. “Equipment, extinguishing agents, training, costs…..What is needed and how do we obtain it? Where do we get specialized training we’ll need?” Chief JD Earls said. “You cannot put water on electricity.” At the meeting…. A pamphlet presented at the meeting titled “Drawbacks of Living Near a Solar Farm” set down a litany of possible issues with solar farms ranging from health concerns about electromagnetic waves, increased risk of fire from the radiated heat and the potential that harmful chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic, silicon, copper and lead could contaminate the environment. The concern is that damaged units may release contaminants into the environment. Frio County Precinct 2 Commissioner Richard Graf presided over the meeting. Also on hand to field questions were Frio County Attorney Joseph Sindon and incoming precinct 2 commissioner Mario Martinez who takes office in November. Graf told those attending that his office received nearly a dozen calls last week concerned about the rumored solar farm project. “I’d really like to say that as of this date (the county) still has not been formally asked or told that a solar company is coming in,” Graf said. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt at all that they are coming in.” However, unless the company applies for tax abatement, it is under no obligation to inform the county of its plans. Graf said he brought the rumored project before the Frio County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting on Aug. 24. “Based on all the information I’ve got it will be my pleasure to recommend to the court that we do not give them one,” Graf said. He said the commissioners were “very attentive to what I had to say and were anxious for this meeting to happen so that I could get back with them.” Graf and Sindon both stressed that the county has no regulatory authority to restrict industrial development. “We all like living in Texas because we don’t want a lot of regulation,” Sindon said. “The government lets us do what we want.” People are largely allowed to do what they want “unless it upsets the neighbors,” Sindon said. He noted that the commissioners approved tax abatement for a solar panel farm located on a large ranch with no immediate neighbors to the project (in the Pearsall area). “Nobody complained,” Sindon said. Martinez said he was in agreement with Graf in opposing the project. “For the most part I’m with everyone here,” Martinez said. “I’m not saying we’re going to please everyone 100 percent but we want to look out for your wellbeing.” Here is the link to the Moore Community Center meeting about the solar farm: https://youtu.be/qQs6pLCOX9g Please note, there was some confusion at the meeting about how much acreage the Moore solar farm would include, but has since been settled and is reflected in this article as of information we received Tuesday. The company which has leased land in Moore is based out of Chicago, a landowner said, and is not the same company that received tax incentives in the Pearsall area solar farms that are expected to become operational in 2023.
By Anton Reicher and Kayleen Holder Medina County Commissioner’s heard a follow-up budget presentation by Medina County veteran’s services officer Ruben Gonzalez this past July 28. The total that the team has brought into Medina County veterans alone is up from approximately $40 million in 2020 to $46 million in 2021.
By Anton Riecher Medina County commissioners gave unanimous consent Thursday (July 28) to add a measure to the Nov. 8 ballot seeking voter approval to freeze the appraisal value on property owned by residents over 65 years old.
By Anton Reicher On July 28, Medina County commissioners approved $46,511 for the first year installation and use of a school security app known as LifeSpot to be applied at Medina County schools. The request for county funding came from Sheriff Randy Brown.
If you would like to see an over 65 exemption on your Medina County taxes like the school districts offer, please contact your county judge and commissioner to let them know you would like to see this offered to senior citizens over the age of 65. What the Devine ISD taxing unit offers is an over 65 residence homestead exemption which freezes your tax rate and appraised evaluation from the moment of exemption on as long as that is your homestead. Medina County is considering and may take action on what they can or want to offer in the form of a tax exemption or freeze at the 10:00 am July 28, 2022 Medina County Commissioners Court meeting at the new courthouse annex which is across the road from the old courthouse in Hondo. It’s time to speak up and/or show up if you want to see an exemption passed. It would help many people. “I think people are ready for any kind of tax relief right now,” said Commissioner Jerry Beck. Contact: Medina County Judge Chris Schuchart at 830-741-6020. Pct. 1 Comm. Tim Neumann, Hondo, 830-741-6016 Pct. 2 Comm. Larry Sittre, Castroville, 830-931-4000 Pct. 3 Comm. David Lynch, Hondo, 830-741-6006 Pct. 4 Comm. Jerry Beck, Devine, 210-244-3413 cell or 830- 665-8015.
By Anton Reicher The Medina County Commissioners Court spent the week leading to the Fourth of July conducting one regular meeting and two budget workshop sessions with a strong emphasis on law enforcement requirements. Making presentations to the court were Sheriff Randy Brown, District Attorney Mark Haby, County Court-at-Law Judge Mark Cashion, Precinct 2 Constable Jim Przybylski, Justice of the Peace Glenn Klaus, Juvenile Probation Officer Lynette Drury and pre-trial services administrator Dorothy Hastings. Commissioners also heard from county clerk Gina Champion, county auditor Eduardo Lopez, elections administrator Lupe Torres and veterans’ services officer Ruben Gonzalez and representatives of the county’s agricultural extension service office. Sheriff Brown addressed the court on his plans to increase jail revenue during the coming budget year. With the final completion of the jail addition and renovation project in January, the county expects an extra $375,000 in revenue to come from renting jail space to entities such as the U.S. Marshals Service. The expected revenue is calculated based on $55 a bed daily divided by two. “When we swing the doors open, we’re hoping to have enough jailers to handle it,” Brown said. Also discussed during Brown’s presentation was the delay in delivery of nine Chevrolet Tahoes ordered by the county for the sheriff’s office in October 2021. The delays are being blamed on COVID-19 pandemic supply chain issues. “I’m literally disgusted,” County Auditor Lopez said. Equipment needed to put eight of the nine vehicles in operating conditions arrived at the “upfitting” facility on June 29, he said. “They are telling me the ninth one is there but I can’t verify that,” Lopez said. The county has been notified that two other vehicles ordered, a Ford F250 and a Ford F150, may be so behind schedule that the trucks delivered will be 2023 models, not 2022 models. Unfortunately, these vehicles will be subject to any price increases for the newer models. “I have no idea what to expect on these vehicles,” Lopez said. “It’s a complete train wreck right now.” Lopez, in a separate presentation, asked commissioners for $67,500 to cover indirect costs from the move to consolidate the public defenders’ office for five counties to be based in Medina County. He also asked for the hiring of a new full-time employee to be split between his office and human resources to help with new increase in personnel that the completion of the jail project represents. Constable Przybylski presented his argument for a salary increase from $33,211 to $48,500, plus an increased travel allowance. He reported that since 2013 his office has made 2,937 traffic stops with 2,280 citations and arrest warrants served. In citations, the office has collected $320,000 since 2015 with nearly $34,000 in civil process fines collected together with the justice of the peace’s office in the same period. “We’re not just sitting there, running traffic and speed traps,” Przybylski said. District Attorney Haby told commissioners his budget included slight increases in various categories but “nothing shocking.” Those increases included raises in salaries for prosecutors. “Hiring and retaining skilled prosecutors in rural areas is a challenge,” Haby said, particularly when in close proximity to a large metropolitan county such as Bexar. A first assistant district attorney in Medina County makes just over $90,000 annually, Haby said. In Bexar County, the same position pays nearly $177,000. Juvenile probation officer Drury asked for an increase of $153,000 in her budget, calling the need “critical.” “The majority of it is going to placements and detention,” Drury said. “Those are going up significantly across the state.” Justice of the Peace Klaus asked to upgrade a part-time employee to help deal with the escalating number of drug cases filed in his jurisdiction. Aside from law enforcement issues, veterans’ services officer Gonzalez took the opportunity to recognize a recent success for his office, correcting a Veteran’s Administration error that allowed one client to recover $408,000 in unpaid health care benefits. During the regular court meeting on June 30, the commissioners heard a presentation from Mark Miller of Westwood County Engineering on the development of a master drainage plan for Medina County. Priorities for the plan are to identify risk, develop project concepts, develop funding goals and partnerships, develop mechanisms to increase drainage infrastructure funding and coordinate the project with state and federal agencies such as the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Division of Emergency Management. In subdivision development news, the commissioners approved plans to vacate and replat Lot 20 in Holiday Villages located in Precinct 1 on County Road 151. No comments were heard during a public hearing on the request. The commissioners gave final approval on Desert Willow Acres and Hunters Ranch Unit 14A, both in Precinct 3. The court also approved the construction plan for Amanda Park in Precinct 2, permitting building to begin.
In the wake of the May 24 shooting massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that left 19 students and two teachers dead, administrators from the several Medina County school districts met with county commissioners to request funding for 1 additional school resource officer be assigned to every school district. Eric Smith, president of the Natalia school board, led the presentation made during a June 2 regular session of the commissioners’ court. “I will not throw out fancy stats or figures on school shootings in the U.S. or Uvalde,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sure each of us is aware and it makes us, including me, sick to our stomachs every time we turn on the news.” Also speaking for the gathered administrators was Shannon Beasley, vice president of the Medina Valley school board. “It touches us deeply and is what we as trustees and stewards of our students consider the worst nightmare,” Beasley said. David Lynch, precinct 2 commissioner, led the meeting in the absence of County Judge Chris Schuchart. He emphasized that the SRO request had been added to the court’s agenda solely as a matter of discussion. “This is not an action item,” he said. “We want to hear your concerns and maybe have a little dialogue.” “We are all products of Medina County schools,” Lynch added.” Our wives are products of Medina County schools. Our children, our grandchildren are too. So, we understand the need for security and safety as a foremost priority.” “Also we have been on the phone with Pete Flores and Andrew Murr, who said ‘We have State funding….funding that nobody ever asks for. So that may be another piece to this puzzle,” Lynch said. He said he was sure Judge Schuchart would want to be on hand for any final decision by the commissioners. Medina County Sheriff Randy Brown verified that the county at present has six SROs for the entire county, which are all placed at Medina Valley ISD schools. The cost to add a single new officer on board, including training and vehicle, could be nearly $130,000, he estimated. For seven, that’s a little under $1 million dollars ($910,000). “We need to stop calling them SROs,” Brown said. “They are not school resource officers. We need police in the schools that can do the job.” Even with immediate approval of such a hire, finding the right person to fill the role will be difficult, he said. “If we can figure out how to do this I support you 100 percent,” Brown said. “I don’t know where the money is going to come from but our greatest treasurers are in those school buildings.” “When I was driving back from Uvalde that night, I started checking into costs,” Sheriff Brown said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to make schools are safe as we can for everyone.” Sheriff stated that “With all the growth in the county, it’s just unbelievable the number of calls we have.” He noted that he would like to have 7 more deputies on staff. He also stated that in the future he would like to see deputies in schools countywide. “I don’t need somebody in the schools that calls us. I need somebody in the school that IS us. I know a lot of school districts have approached us and would like to have a deputy on campus.” “I guarantee you if something happens, we’ll be there. …It’s hard to say we are going to be there in 5 minutes though if we are all the way up on Hwy 16. Someday, I am going to have enough people to divide the county into 4 different quadrants,” he said in hopes that he can have deputies better positioned to help when an emergency arises. Towards the end of his speech, Sheriff Brown commented, “We can talk and talk and talk….but we need to stop talking and do something.” Sheriff Brown mentioned there is a COPS grant that has a deadline of June 9, but felt it may be too late for locals to apply. (see separate article) On hand from Devine ISD were superintendent Todd Grandjean, assistant high school principal Daryl Wendel, school board president Nancy Pepper, board member Ali Buvinghausen and financial resource officer Shannon Ramirez, Harry Piles of Natalia ISD. Board members from the various districts were also present. Superintendent Grandjean commented that Devine has instituted the Guardian program (which allows certain staff to carry a concealed weapon), and that regional training for other local districts is available. Smith opened his presentation with a detailed breakdown of the security presently available at schools throughout the county. “When you look at the six districts here today the largest is Medina Valley with over 7,500 children and eight different campuses, six of which have school resource officers paid for by Medina Valley ISD,” Smith said. Hondo ISD has one police officer funded by the school district and another locally funded through the city of Hondo, he said. Devine has one SRO officer who travels between all campuses as needed, and the expense is shared by the city, with a majority covered by the school. Like Devine, Hondo is part of the Texas School Guardian Program, an armed defensive approach to active shooters on campus. Although D’Hanis ISD also has the Guardian program, the district does not include an incorporated city and does not have a school resource officer. Natalia ISD has one police officer from city police but funded by the district. The district cut short its school year following a Natalia student being charged with terroristic threat. Lytle ISD has one Medina County sheriff’s deputy who is funded by the school district at a cost of $60,000 annually, Smith said. “I was happy when I reached out to those six districts that represent Medina County public schools educating 12,000 children and employing over 2,000 staff,” Smith said. “They were in full support of why I am here.” He noted that this was the second time he had made this request for his school district. “Several years ago I requested that you would consider looking into possibly giving some kind of tax reduction to offset appraisals that we know you do not control but to try and offset the cost,” Smith said. The decision at that time was not to go forward with a tax reduction scheme, he said. “I will not criticize the decision you make in regard to our (latest) request,” Smith said. “I would just ask that you remember 51,000 residents in our county that have 12,000 relatives attending these schools.” He added that what was being requested was not a luxury “but a necessity.” But, even at that, additional SROs “would not be an end-all solution and would not guarantee our children would not be in harm’s way.” Following Smith’s presentation, Beasley said Medina Valley ISD has had a strong focus on school safety since 2018. However, discussing in detail security measures in place is not in the best interest of the students. “Unfortunately, what the media portrays is often not the whole story,” Beasley said. “As any of us elected officials know often things happen that we can’t talk about.” Commissioners emphasized that the fund balance might look like an easy source of funding when things are going good. However, circumstances can change quickly. That healthy fund balance might make the difference between personnel layoffs or funding important projects, they noted. “We’re not saying no to anything but our fund balance and the shape that it is in is very important to the commissioners,” Lynch said. “Trying to meet your needs and desires without affecting that is something we’ll have to work through.” A one-time expense using the fund balance is one thing, he said. However, SRO officers are an ongoing expense. “That revenue flow is going to have to come from somewhere and it will be the taxpayers that fund that ultimately,” Lynch said. Beyond county and district funding to initially hire new SROs, permanent funding may be available from the state. Lynch and Larry Sittre, precinct 2 commissioner, said they had been in touch with state Rep. Andrew Murr and state representative candidate Pete Flores about the issue. “They feel that this is a state funding issue so they would like for representatives of the school districts to reach out and ask for the money,” Lynch said. Sittre stated, “This commissioners court is probably more pro fund the police than anyone….Pete Flores sent me an article. He sent me a $100 million package that’s been in place for 2 years. In the meantime I contacted Andrew Murr this weekend. The $100 million is available. He said to give them his phone number…..Fill out the paperwork. That’s a fast start, instead of waiting for anyone to okay something in Austin, which I know is probably never gonna take place.” In reference to last week’s newspaper, which discussed the county’s recent $2.1 million purchase of two new buildings, Sittre noted, “On the $2.1 million spending here, This has nothing to do with the budget, whatsoever. We can’t use that as budget money.” He also noted that the county’s most recent Audit, which was presented the county a few weeks ago, presents information about county funds from the fiscal year that ended in 2021, (which was noted in the article). In reference to state funding that Flores and Murr mentioned, Beasley replied that it was unsure if that state funding would go to the counties or directly to the districts. Smith noted that hundreds of districts in the state have no SROs whatsoever, making them the most likely candidates for early funding. “The way we look at it what we can do today gives us the time to figure this out later,” Smith said. “Even if it is just one year (from the county) it gives us time to go after the state, go after whoever we need to and get extra funding.” According to Sittre, the funds being targeted from the county to pay for the added SROs would require voter approval under current property tax law. “This isn’t a one-time thing of ‘I’ll give you $100,000, $200,000 or a half million dollars and it’s over with,” Sittre said. “That money is not in the budget.” Commisioners Nueman, Lynch and Beck all suggested having workshop or round table sessions between county and school district officials to resolve the issue. In other action, the commissioners acted various subdivision development projects including preliminary approval of The Enclave at Potranco Oaks, unit 2, located in Precinct 2 off Potranco Road. The commissioners also approved phase three of Hunter’s Ranch subdivision located in Precinct 2 off Potranco Road. Final approval of Hunter’s Ranch subdivision units nine and 11 off FM 1957 pending action by San Antonio officials was okayed by commissioners. Also, units one and two of the Boehme Ranch subdivision in Precinct 2 off County Road 466 received court approval. The court voted to accept a $1 million construction bond for Valley Oaks subdivision, phase 1, in Precinct 1 off CR 241. Also approved was a replat of several lots in the Valentine Ranch subdivision, phase 1, in precinct 1 off Park Road 37. Likewise, the commissioners gave preliminary approval to replat several lots in the San Martin Hills subdivision, unit 2, located in Precinct 1 off CR 241. Regarding Medina County Emergency Services District No. 1 in Castroville, the commissioners voted to approved the resignation of Pamela Mathis to be replaced by Jenny Ferren.
Medina County Commissioners voted April 7 to allow County Judge Chris Schuchart to negotiate and offer Volta LLC a tax break to locate near Yancey. Schuchart told the Devine News that he is offering Volta a 50 percent tax break over a five year period. School and state taxes would not be affected, nor would road and bridge funds. Judge Schuchart clarified that it would be a 50% abatement for everything above the current tax revenue which was $9,500 a year. Volta, based in Houston, is a leading manufacturer of industrial power systems. According to Dun and Bradstreet, the company generates $70.9 million in sales annually. “They expect to provide 50 jobs in the first year, and eventually up to 140 jobs,” Schuchart said in a short phone interview