By Anton Riecher
Nearly eight weeks of wrangling came to a close Sept. 26 when the Devine City Council voted 4-1 to approve a “no-new-revenue” tax rate for of $.5553 per $100 valuation to support a 2023-2024 city budget of $7,933,402.
“It’s the hill I’m going to die on – no-new-revenue,” said District 4 Council Member Josh Ritchey, who moved to accept the $.5553 tax rate. District 3 Council Member Stacy Pyron seconded the motion.
A no-new-revenue tax rate is calculated to produce the same amount as the previous year applying new rates and appraisals to the same property. The tax rate for the fiscal year that ended Oct. 1 is $.4913, of which $$.3138 goes to maintenance and operations and $.0949 goes into interest and sinking.
Of the new $.5553 tax rate, $.4509 goes to the maintenance and support of the general fund while $.1044 goes into interest and sinking.
District 5 Council Member Debbie Randall stood alone in opposition to both the tax rate and the city budget.
At one point District 1 Council Member Ruffino Vega and District 2 Council Member Michael Hernandez both declared support for a $.5589 tax rate. The city staff prepared three potential budgets for consideration based on tax rates of $.5800, $.5553 and $.5589.
Mayor Butch Cook intervened, pointing out that only $8,000 in revenue stood between the tax favored by Vega and Hernandez and the rate backed by Ritchey and Pyron.
“You don’t get a significant increase until you go to $.5800 and that’s not going to pass,” Cook said.
He expressed concern that operating at the “no-new-revenue” level could prove difficult in view of inflationary stresses, payroll expenses, an increase in the police budget, and at least $60,000 new expense for the airport.
“Because of the property values, the sales tax and all that this is one of those rare occasion when the no-new-revenue rate is almost the same as the voter-approval rate,” Cook said. The voter-approval tax rate is a calculated maximum rate allowed by law without voter approval.
Ritchey agreed with Cook’s point.
“One road bump and we’re going to be wrecked,” Ritchey said.
However, while the $.5553 tax rate may not represent an increase in revenue to the city, it does represent the “still increasing amount of money people have to pull out of their pocket each year,” Ritchey said.
Of the new budget, $4,797,062 goes into the city general fund. The remainder is divided between the water and sewer fund ($2,864,200), the debt service fund ($252,100), the lodging fund ($20,040) and the Texas Commissioner on Law Enforcement training fund ($2).
Expenditures under the new budget include $4,196,102 in general funds, $2,933,979 in water and sewer funds, $242,258 in debt service funds and $4,324 in lodging funds.
Also, the council approved amendments to the previous fiscal year 2022-2023 city budget that left a projected surplus of $376,783, once auditors have made final corrections.
City Administrator Dora Rodriguez obtained legal confirmation by City Attorney Thomas Cate by phone that the surplus could not be arbitrarily applied to any other city project without the council first voting to transfer the money into an appropriate account.
In other business, the council approved the minutes from five previous meetings dating back to August 15. Mayor Cook took issue with how he was quoted on several items and asked for clarifications.
On a motion by Randall, seconded by Hernandez, the council voted unanimously to amend the minutes.
The council also voted unanimously to appoint former Medina county commissioner Jerry Beck to the Medina County Appraisal Board. Beck, also a former mayor and council member, made a formal request to serve on the board.
Devine welds 81 votes among the 12 entities that make up the appraisal district, On a motion by Ritchey, seconded by Randall, Beck’s nomination was approved unanimously.