City council meets in special session
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
During a special session on Tuesday, Sept. 7, the Crockett City Council considered and approved an ordinance levying ad valorem taxes for use and support of the municipal government of the city for fiscal year 2011, rejected the city administrator’s recommenda-tions for amendments to the fiscal year 2010 budget and increased several fees. The ad valorem taxes include $.347683 on each $100 valuation of property for the maintenance and support of the general government (general fund), and $.151717 on each $100 valuation of property for the interest and sinking fund. The taxes levied under this ordinance will be due Oct. 1 and if not paid on or before Feb. 1, 2011, will immediately become delin-quent. The city council held public hearings in August on the tax rates, and no members of the public spoke for or against them. Ron Duncan, city administrator, explained his proposed amendments to the FY 2010 budget. The budget amendment covered a number of issues not included in the FY 2010 budget. The Sept. 1 memorandum presented by Duncan to the mayor and city council states that general fund revenues are down in many categories. “Key items which decreased due to a slowdown in economic activity were sales taxes, hotel-motel taxes, power and light and gas franchise fees and garbage collection,” the memorandum states. “Other shortfalls include municipal court, recycle sales and miscellaneous fees and permits,” according to Duncan’s correspondence. “Tax revenues were better than expected,” Duncan reported, “as well as insurance proceeds.” Duncan’s memo further states the water and sewer revenue dropped this year because of the slowdown in economic activity and a wet May through July. The memo states, “Neither water nor sewer sales will meet expectations.” An assortment of grants benefitting the city was also cited by Duncan in his memo. General fund expenditures in the areas of vehicle and equipment maintenance, gasoline and electricity were major factors that drove the city over budget in a couple of areas, Duncan’s memo states. The streets department would have been under budget, Duncan’s memo explains, but students working under the Crockett Youth Summer work program were paid through the street department and vehicle/maintenance on large items resulted in greater than expected expenditures. Additionally, the police department experienced a change in salaries when Officer Romo was upgraded to full officer status after completing the Police Academy, and overtime pay also affected the budget. Although the solid waste department stayed within budget, there were insurance expenditures in excess of $30,000 to repair windstorm damage that increased the maintenance and repair of building cost, according to Duncan’s memorandum. Despite several major assembly failures during the year which resulted in high maintenance and repairs of equipment costs and increased water costs, Duncan projected that, overall, the water and sewer department should finish the year within budget. “However,” Duncan reported, “in order to cover shortfalls in the general fund, most of our depreciation expense will be used to keep the overall budget in line and we will lose fund balance this year in Water and Sewer. Our finance restructuring should rectify the problem in the coming years and restore our reserves.” Council members Jackie Jones and Nathan Gardner cast the dissenting votes to Duncan’s requested budget amendment. The city council also considered and approved an ordinance increasing the Porth Agriculture Arena and Crockett Civic Center usage fees. The ordinance includes deposits of $300 for events where no alcohol is served and $500 where alcohol is served at the civic center. The deposits are refundable except for damage and cleaning expenses. Gardner voted against this ordinance. The city council voted unanimously to increase the filing fee to $100 for an amendment to the zoning map and text. Duncan reported it has been several years since the fee was increased. Another fee increasing for the first time in several years is the fee for an application for a specific use permit. The city council voted unanimously to increase this fee to $100. The city council also approved an increase of the fee for selling bulk water and the tapping fees for connections to the city water works system. A proposed ordinance that would have increased residential and commercial garbage collection and also would have increased the rental charges for roll-off container service failed for the lack of a second to the motion. The proposed residential rate was $17.85 per month. Council member Ansel Bradshaw suggested the city promote the fact it sells garbage bags. Bradshaw also discussed a potential ordinance banning K2 and related substances as well as smoking paraphernalia. An ordinance passed last month by Tyler was in the council’s packet to review. Mention also was made that Onalaska has passed a similar ordinance. Bradshaw said he would like to bring an ordinance for council to consider at its next meeting. According to the Tyler ordinance, K-2 is in a group described as synthetic cannabinoids. These substances may cause hallucinations, vomiting, agita-tion, panic attacks, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, pallor, numbness and tingling, disorientation, loss of time awareness and, in some cases, tremors and seizures, according to the Tyler ordinance. A representative of the Crockett Police Department confirmed the substance is sold in some Crockett locations.