County judge casts deciding vote on measure to change apportionment of road funds

By Anton Riecher

Medina County Judge Keith Lutz cast a rare deciding vote on commissioners’ court action August 17, joining with two other members to approve a measure amending how funds for road construction and maintenance are apportioned to the precincts.

The vote followed Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre abrupt departure after several terse exchanges with Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch on the proposed amendment.

“Why don’t you all just figure it out,” Sittre said, rising to leave the commissioner’s court chamber.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Larry Sittre storms out of the August 17 Medina County Commissioners Court meeting after an exchange with other commissioners on proposed action on how county road and bridge money is apportioned. In Sittre’s absence County Judge Keith Lutz joined with the remaining commissioners to approve the measure 3-0, (Photo by Anton Riecher)

The commissioners split over what factors should go into calculating what each precinct gets after legal experts ruled that the existing formula used by the county would not pass muster under the state constitution.

Lynch and Precinct 4 Commissioner Daniel Lawler joined Lutz in approving an amendment using three key factors in apportionment – road miles, population and appraised value. Lynch referred to the measure as a “three-legged stool.”

However, Sittre who covers the Castroville area, sought to include additional components to the formula such as amount of traffic and number of disabled veterans in his precinct.

Lutz and the commissioners countered that while the figures for road miles, population, and appraised value are already known, adding exact traffic load will involve conducting an extensive study that could not be completed in time to consider this year.

“We are in transition here,” Lutz said. “We can’t continue doing what we are doing. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Lawler said he would have a hard time approving traffic as a factor “when you don’t have the numbers,” at which point Sittre rose and left the session without voting. The “three-legged approach” would cost his precinct as much as $230,000, he said earlier.

The three-legged approach involves numbers that are definitive, Lynch said.

“We know what they are every year,” he said. “We won’t have any problem calculating those numbers. We don’t have to guess because we (already) have them.”

Lynch said that including other factors were “cherry picking things that help our individual precincts.”

While including traffic count might benefit precinct two, factors such as road miles would be to the advantage of precincts one and two, he said. Lynch said he was against expanding the formula to a “five, six or seven-legged stool  where everybody is throwing in” what is special to their precinct.

“Precinct 4 could say ‘Well, what about geology,’” Lynch said. “’When it rains the sand down there just eats up my roads.’”

Lynch said he was open to including traffic count next year after a study had been conducted. However, Sittre said the traffic figures are critical to his precinct.

“You’re using three things to try and make a cake that’s not going to turn out too good,” Sittre said. “You’re leaving out the flour.”

Editor’s note: In last year’s budget, Pct 2 (Sittre) had over a half a million ($520,000) in his road and bridge materials/contract work funds plus another $162,000+ through it’s special road tax fund Pct 1 (formerly Nueman) had over $550,000 in his road and bridge material/work funds as well.

 This is compared to Pct 3 (Lynch) which had a little over $305,000 and Pct 4 (now Lawler, Devine area) which had around $217,000 in their road and bridge material /contract work funds.

Proposed Tax Rate–The court is scheduled to take action on a proposed 2023 tax rate of $.4356 per $100 valuation at a  public hearing scheduled for Sept. 7.  The new tax rate represents an increase of over $2 million dollars in total property taxes that will be collected.  The proposed budget can be viewed in the County Clerk’s office or on the county’s website.

In other action, the commissioners approved a further amendment to a revised longevity pay policy approved in July which establishes a sliding scale for employees with five to 40 plus years of service to the county.

The new policy states that an employee is not eligible for longevity pay if they resign or retire prior to the annual anniversary of the original hiring date.

Commissioner voted 3-0 to appoint Lutz as the authorized county representative to the Woodlands Public Improvement District. The court also voted 3-0 on reappointment of Michael Ingersoll and Janet Tovey to the Potranco West PID; Robert Hancock, Victor Ortiz and Mary Hoyt to Potranco Ranch PID No. 1 and Ingersoll and Dorsey Wilkin to the Potranco Ranch PID No. 2.

The court also voted 3-0 to approve reappointment of Mary Hoyt, Janet Tovey, Victor Ortiz and Logan Mars to the Potranco Ranch Subdivision Board.

La Coste resident Hank Seay III addressed commissioners about his concern regarding fentanyl in Medina County schools, pledging to make the point at all future commissioners court meetings.

“There is a drug problem over at Medina Valley (school district),” Seay said.