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By Jan White
CROCKETT – At its meeting held on Monday, August 16, the Crockett City Council voted to increase the city taxes to the “Di Minimus” tax rate in order to fund an increase in salaries for essential city employees.
“This is the tax rate that funds the budget that we talked about. This is the di minimus tax rate. This is the tax rate of $0.68, a little over 68 cents per $100 of value. Based on the average property value from 2022, it will increase your property tax bill by about $84.94 per year.”
Angerstein went on to explain that they are given three different possible tax brackets that are given to the city by statute, but these all fell short of providing the city with the revenue needed to hire and retain law enforcement staff, fire department staff, and provide parity across the board with city maintenance employees.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, citizens were allowed to express their thoughts or concerns regarding the tax hike. Moosehead Café owner Buddy Clonts expressed dismay over the tax increase. “You know, they sock it to us over property taxes. Pretty big. So how much is that going to increase?”
When city administrator John Angerstein explain that the taxes were based on increased property tax, Clonts responded, “Is the tax rate lower than last year or higher?” “The di minimus rate is higher,” Angerstein responded. “So our taxes are gonna go way up,”
Clonts said. “Yes, sir,” Angerstein answered, “they are.” “They’re trying to run us out of business.”
“I don’t think that’s the goal of this council,” Ernest Jackson responded. He went on to say that while he understood Clonts’ concern, the increase is necessary to ensure the city hires and retains employees. “I’m a property owner too,” said Jackson, “and I understand. We don’t have the money to pay. But everybody in our city is called upon to do just a little bit more. So that when you have an issue, like a fire or need law enforcement, we have people here to respond.”
Other comments were of a more positive note. “I’ll give the City of Crockett an ‘atta boy,’” stated Sherrill Woods. “You guys are lean on your city budget. I have seen very little waste. I commend each and every one of you.”
After hearing the comments, the public portion of the meeting was closed, and the Council voted to approve the di minimus tax rate. The Council also voted to appropriate money to the Sinking Fund to pay interest and principal due on the City’s indebtedness and adopted the annual budget for the City of Crockett for the fiscal year 2023.
Approval was given for a specific use permit for Jeffery W. Darst of Possum Grape II, LLC to allow mixed commercial and residential use of the property located at 205 E. Goliad.
The council then went on to discussions regarding the CEIDC budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Council members questioned CEIDC Executive Director James Gentry about the placement of some line items. Much of the conversation was about the proposed construction of an industrial-sized gas line. The discussion centered around whether to install the gas line now, when there are no current prospects to occupy the Industrial Park, or whether to wait until there is an interest or a commitment and then install the gas line. Councilwoman Marquita Beasley brought it to the attention of the council that the cost of the gas line was not actually included in the budget presented, “But it’s something to consider.”
Gentry also explained the amount allotted for training and bonds, and insurance. New board members have specific economic development training they must go through, and other courses are also available such as sales tax and industry incentive education. The bond increase was due to a previous coverage oversight.
Gentry was also questioned about the van used by the CEIDC. “What’s the purpose of the van?” asked Councilman Gene Caldwell. “The purpose of the van is to transport guests around town. We take them around town, give them tours of the facilities, the park. It’s a vehicle we’ve had for a number of years, and we use it for that purpose.” Gentry says the van was also used to provide food for the needy folks in the community and that he sometimes uses it when traveling out of town.
“I’m assuming this is the truth,” Caldwell stated, “but the uh, car allowance. Is it supposed to go through payroll?”
“I’m glad you bring that up,” Gentry responded. “In the five-and-a-half years I’ve been here, I have used very little of that $7,200. It was a standing amount with my predecessors to utilize it. I just chose not to use it.”
“So you don’t get any of that money?” Caldwell questioned. “So you use your own personal vehicle and get mileage?”
“Actually, I will use it to put gas in it when I’m traveling out of town to TEDC conferences or other conferences,” Gentry said. “I use the credit card to pay for my gas to and from, and that’s it.”
Moving on to other topics, Gentry stated that $385k is still owed on the state school loan. Gentry stated that currently they are under budget for the 2021-22 year, and that the current budget is basically a flat line except for some increase due to inflation.
After a brief discussion, the council voted to approve the budget as presented, pending the need for a line item for prospect incentives such as the roof repair and the gas pipeline installation as capital expenditures.