By Anton Riecher
An unofficial majority of the Devine City Council favors a 2022 property tax rate of $.4527 per $100 of valuation based on increased taxable value of $274.1 million.
“The majority at the table wants to go with the no-new revenue tax rate,” Mayor Cory Thompson announced during an Aug. 16 regular session of the council.
Truth-in-taxation requires most taxing units to calculate two rates after receiving a certified appraisal roll from the chief appraiser — the no-new revenue tax rate and the voter-approval tax rate. The voter-approval tax rate — $.4866 – is the maximum rate the council can approve without a vote by local taxpayers.
The city’s current tax rate is $.5298 per $100 of valuation. By adopting the no-new revenue rate, the city will only gain $28,000 over the current tax rate.
With the increase in valuation, the no-new revenue tax rate amounts to a reduction for local taxpayers, District 5 council member Debbie Randall said.
“We still get a tiny, little bitty bump but it will be less taxes for the individuals,” she said.
The no-new revenue agenda item was not a final vote but simply a review in preparation for approving a final budget, Thompson said.
Two preliminary city budgets are being prepared for consideration based on a “wish list” compiled by the city staff, Thompson said. However, in preparation for the proposed budgets, District 4 council member Josh Ritchey asked for a list of all city job positions and their pay.
“My thought process here is every organization over five people has got some fat you can cut,” Ritchey said.
Randall replied that the city does not have enough employees to meet requirements now. However, she said she did agree with Ritchey that any pay increases for city employees should be based solely on merit.
“Technically, at my company there is no such thing as across the board,” Randall said. “You have to earn what you get.”
In other action, the council voted 3-0 to restrict all city council meeting to no more than four hours. Any agenda item not addressed in that time would be moved to a special session to be scheduled within two weeks.
The vote was taken on a motion by Ritchey seconded by Randall.
Initially, Thompson proposed a three-hour limit on any council session.
“If you can drive to Corpus in three hours you should be able to have a council meeting in three hours,” he said.
However, Randall argued that in her experience very few council meetings are able to work through a full agenda in only three hours.
“We would celebrate when it was done in three hours alone,” she said. “I’m thinking four maybe. We have been able to do it in a four-hour period.”
The proposed action came in the wake of complaints by city staff hard pressed to attend the lengthy council sessions, some lasting until midnight, and then putting in a full eight hours the next day.
“It’s hard on everybody,” he said. “Everybody has a job.”
Thompson noted that the council meeting in session had barely made quorum with only three of five council members attending beside the mayor. Under state law, a special session requires four voting members to establish a quorum.
The mayor said he would not support further restrictions on the time available for public comments during council sessions. However, those wishing to address the council might be better served by contacting their district council member.
“At the end of the day, the council person is the one that votes,” Thompson said.
Randall said she agreed that speaking to the district council member first can be more effective. But sometimes nothing can replace addressing the entire council.
“I tell them to bring their voices,” Randall said. “Sometimes we have to have them.”
The council voted to give city director of public works Robert Flores the authority to approve a certificate of occupancy upon the final inspection of the new Golf Clubhouse.
Action to set procedures for hiring a new city administrator was tabled.
By Anton Riecher