Friday, September 14, 2018

Notes on City of Marfa tax rate hearing and council meeting August 20, 2018

Notes on Marfa City Council budget hearing, Monday August 20th, 2018, 6:00 PM, City Hall

Present: Councilmembers Webb, Baez, Melendez, Johnston, Salgado, and Mayor Nafziger. Also present city Administrator Teri Brechtel, City Secretary Whatley.

Not present: city Atty Todd

Meeting convened at 6:02 PM.

Mayor presents for Tax Rate hearing

Decrease of 2.52% raises additional monies of 34,829

Effective tax rate is .426825
Rollback rate is .444962
Proposed is .444000

M&O rate is .27971

Public hearings and notices are being made.

Interest and Sinking  tax rate is .168028, to pay debt service of $285 and change.

Beebe asks if the city has implemented exemptions for homestead, over 65, and veterans exemptions. Answer is yes, on veterans and over 65, no on general homestead tax exemption. Clarify city taxes only.

Item 3: approve of previous meeting August 14th.
Salgado motions to accept, second by Melendez, Johnston asks for more time. Unanimous

Item 4: Coffield Park alcohol consumption for AEP picnic . Baeza presents but abstains from vote as he is employed by AEP. Three years ago this was done, requesting use of restrooms and will clean park. Power is on at gazebo and new restrooms. AEP plans to use minimal electricity.
Salgado wants to require a deposit for concession stand use. Baeza says that deposit for concession stand has not been required but has no problem with that. Salgado moves to approve with a $150refundable deposit.

Item 5: presentation and discussion on proposed budget to include the Development and environmental Services, Hotel Occupancy Tax Funds and Grant funds.
Third budget workshop to address a section of the budget.
Budget overview will occur in entirety on the 30th with possible approval on Sept 6.
Mayor presents.
Moved sales tax monies designated for streets into public works.
Water rate breakdown for water and sewer. City admin took another look at rates. Water fees, about half million, about 460,000 for sewer fees.
Water well construction funds =675,000 dedicated for that. 17 years left on loan. Funds are banked and now will be expended. Dedicated funds.

Natural Gas: meter expense questions. Three large meters will be purchased.
Electro fusion machine and welder will be purchased. These are all things in review from last meeting.
Baeza wants to know if budget is still in balance after the changes. Looks like we subtracted on the revenue side.
Brechtel says that this years fund balance can be used in water and sewer Dept’s.
Baeza wants to see it zeroed out, would like to see that. Gets his point across.

Mayor moves on to items listed on agenda.

Deirdre Heisler has a comment on the budget process. Says there is a lot of talk about salary availability online. Says that having salaries posted online was a moral killer for her state parks Dept.
She is in favor of not necessarily posting them.
She is happy with the transparency, public input from Dept heads is great.
Line by line analysis of complete budget on the thirtieth is how TX parks Dept did this. Commends council.
Rosario Halpern from paper says that every penny that council spends on salaries is public. County and Appraisal District are listing salaries. Says that this is the city’s decision and she thinks that the admin salaries are too high and that would be the reason for people being upset.
Also says that “corrections have been made” to last budget hearing, but that certain controversial items have not been corrected or addressed tonight that people had major concerns over.
Bob Schwab  asks if there will be another time to ask for public comments tonight. Yes, Mayor says.
Neil Chauvigny says that the conversation about making salaries public or not is being had, but is city going to keep them private? Yes, Council has seen them and not going to be disclosed to the public unless there is an official request.

Buck Johnston has a comment that she just went to TML training and she believes it is expected and mandatory that councilmembers should be able to see every single salary in this budget. She also thinks they should be public in the interest of transparency. Problem is not council’s , is an administration problem. Neil says it sounds like the admin folks don’t want city employees to know what their colleagues make in relation to them.
Administrator Brechtel says that the timing is not right yet since city employees have not had a manual, evaluations, job descriptions, etc on previous administrations. Salary survey parity and job titles will be addressed. She is working on this. Wants an opportunity to sit down with employees first.
Baeza says he has been hearing about crappy roads, objecting to hiring more supervisors. Melendez says she agrees but she is concerned about not having a plan to move forward with road repairs.
Johnston says that this council has not had a discussion about priorities despite the budget documents stating that the proposed budget reflects the goals, of the Mayor and council.
Mayor refutes that assertion, she has notes and then lists certain councilmembers’ concerns and goals. She welcomes more input and is sorry that not everyone’s goals can be met immediately.
Mayor says she works directly with staff and has a lot of face to face tie with Dept heads. Works very closely with city admin.
One priority was to reorganize the city to make things more effective and efficient. She is trying to be a good listener to all these sources.
Says this budget is her best shot at delivering the most and best services for all parties.
She is trying to convey all the information councilmembers need to get through this budget and make the best one possible. On the 30th everyone will have a chance to go try rough the whole thing and make changes. Sees this as a better budget process than last year. Mayor facilitates the conversation.
Baeza recommends having all items projected on the screen. Agreement from councilors, Brechtel takes in the recommendation.
Mayor doesn’t see this as a problem.
Reiterates that she thinks it’s very important for  council to see the budget as a whole before making changes to line items.

Organizational changes : provides a diagram of an older organizational chart and the new proposed chart and changes.
Council appoints and fires city Supervisors, not employees beneath them.
Everyone else reports to the City Manager.
New advisory board is Hotel Motel Tax Occupancy Board.
Changes to include to whom everyone reports to include. New name for city Admin is City Manager.
Under Police Chief there is now a Lieutenant and three officers including Animal Control.
Code Enforcement officer is now going to be under the Development and Environmental Services Director.
Municipal Court clerk will still report to city manager.
No longer have an administrative assistant (Dan Dunlap position) in budget. Advertising for an accountant.
Director of Library and Community Services will oversee library and Nutrition Center.
EMS director reports to City Manager. Adding an EMT 2 part time.
Saves city money in that Dept though less overtime, on call time.
Hours over 86 hours per week accrue overtime, 24 hours on call shifts.
New experienced EMT from Fort Davis ready to come into this position.
Tourism Director: answers to City Manager
Director of Infrastructure and Development . Person will be sure that all projects are coordinated between departments.
Baeza asks as to why we currently have communication deficiencies across departments. Says we pay Dept heads and our city manager to do this already. Mayor says she has not seen this to be the case, no priorities on fixing streets. Prioritizing this brings in an official who can coordinate shovel ready projects.
Opportunities for pothole projects and possible buying a Zipper Ripper . Money can only be spent wisely if we have a shovel ready plan that can be expertly coordinated. She thinks this plan will work.
Baeza says we have not had the employees to do the work. Webb wants to know how many people we have working on this. Unknown, Mayor says. Johnston does not see how this position can do this, but we should be looking for monies to come first before creating an expensive position. Mayor says this is her best shot; if council wants to continue with the way it’s been all these years the. They can, but she doesn’t see a way forward without a structural change to getting this done. Employees have been working hard but supervision of this has been virtually non existent. For ten years this was not a priority. Drainage issues have been created when we didn’t have a good plan.
We don’t know how to get this done on an efficient, city wide basis.
Brechtel says no matter which way we go we need a plan, engineering.
Baeza advocates for having a dedicated road crew instead of having a new director position. Mayor says that Baeza’s plan is not a developed plan, unknown as to what extra equipment we would need for this.
Demonstration of Zipper is postponed because of a missing additional piece of machinery.
Mayor advocates for grants, more oversight.
Salgado thinks that contracting our street work could be an option rather than hiring another admin position.
James Reuben Mustard, former city administrator, has his hand up. Not called upon.
Baeza takes exception to the Mayors assertion that the streets have been ignored for years. We have done work, but it’s very expensive and until recently we did not have any money. Webb wants t9know how many dedicated street crew workers we have. No dedicated crew, part of public works Dept Manager says. Webb wants to know who is in charge. Brechtel says that workers get called away from streets to water, sewer issues.
Webb wants to hire a dedicated crew. Manny agrees.
Neil Chauvigny asks about proposed positions on crews. Manny says that he would rather hire two workers rather than adding an admin position.
James Reuben Mustard is called upon and says that the reason we have problems with the streets is that maintenance was stopped in 1990s because the city did not have any money. Sold our good equipment to Alpine for pennies on the dollar at that time. Engineering firms have already presented to city plans, looking at millions of dollars. Employees, equipment and supplies cost big dollars and it’s hard to start the infrastructure side of things when the citizens realize what they hey will have to pay. Decisions are not hard, except the level of money needed to implement these plans is overwhelming and very hard to get.
Chip seal maintenance on replaced streets need be done every three to five years. City is already behind.
Bob Schwab asks about EMT support, very important to pay them fairly, support the with proper equipment, consider if adding another EMT might affect the happiness and earning power of the existing staff.please consider this.
Developmental and Environmental Services: job description has already been approved by council. Grant writing, parks oversight, planning and zoning committee cooperation, new zoning code implementation. Facilities management. EMS and Fire Dept are on opposite sides of tracks. Possibly merge the offices with resources at both offices, N and S of tracks.
Ordinances- applied unfairly, need updating. Illegal dumping issues.
Noise and light pollution, dirty lots, garbage and recycling.
Salgado asks of all those could be put beneath the code enforcement officer. Brechtel says no. She does not see the. Urgent officer as being supervisor material. Salgado, Baeza and Johnston see this position as not a priority, should be under code enforcement. Salgado is vehement about this, Johnston agrees wholeheartedly. Wa can replace an employee who is not willing to be trained or do the job.
Adding and accountant and subtracting the administrative assistant would cost an extra $8,000. city has contractor who will serve in that capacity until we find a hire.
Development/ Environmental Services Director. Doubling proposed revenue of Dept based on new fee schedule.
Construction ordinance from 2008, permit application fee will go up for $25 to $50 for residential, $100 for commercial. Renewal would be $50.
Fence permits up from $25 to $50. Demolition permit currently $50, going to be  $100 for commercial, contractors would have to show they have a roll off container contracted. Increase fees from 10 cents per 100 to 20 cents. More.
Compliance would be monitored by city. City does not currently do building inspections.
Baeza talks about parking issues when roll offs are in street. Charging for that based on parking issues and traffic congestion. Johnston and Baeza want to look at proposed streets. Mustard says that city should add a clause about street repairs in case streets are damaged by roll offs.
Neil Chauvigny asks who is going to approve permits. Brechtel says that City Manager will review to be sure it complies with regulations, etc.
Code enforcement will be in charge of registering contractors in town? No, Lori Flores does that.
Will contractors be required to be licensed by the State? Yes, says Brechtel.
Neil sees people not licensed working all over town. Residential work is ok, Brechtel says. General contractors are no longer overseen by the State. She has been enforcing this. Code enforcement officer does not do this.
Officer enforces city ordinances, on patrol. Write citations for infractions.
City does not have a building inspector. Brechtel does imagine in the future that would be something we could address, but not soon. Too difficult.
Mayor brings up the need for following up on building and zoning regulations . Wants to hear from council what they may want.
Salgado feels like the code enforcement officer needs to have that responsibility. We should train him.
Mustard says that there was a volunteer board, permit review committee. Make recommendation as to approval of permits. Eventually disbanded. Existing ordinance is on the books that authorizes this if  council would like to possibly address this.
Bob Schwab says that if neighbors are educated about upcoming permits, they can help enforce problems. Brechtel agrees but most of the time we have not enforced things properly and complaints result.
Mustard says that in the previous Police Dept the police did the enforcement and that was effective.
Melendez asks about the training load for a building inspector. Brechtel says quite a bit.
Compliance with ordinances is the goal.
Capital Outlay: city vehicle for Dept.
Rosario clarifies that the director would be$65,000 and the officer would be $38,000. Oversees garbage, recycling and parks employees in addition to code enforcement.
Parks Dept sales tax revenue. One full time worker, one part time.
City pays parks employees, sales tax monies are transferred to Parks Dept board.
Facilities maintenance: $25,000 plus 60,000all in banked funds.
Fire Dept / EMS need infrastructure facility improvements. EMS need to be able to sleep there. AC is out, among other problems. Clean EMS garage and add a fire vehicle here and EMS vehicle across the tracks.
City Hall needs work.
Mayor asks for other comments. None
Recycling and solid waste. Two part time employees at recycling center.
$420,200 to Duncan disposal contract.
$650,000approximate total collections into enterprise fund.

Hotel motel tax- Tourism and Convention center.
Hot grant committee met with Texas hotel motel tax consultant today and meeting went great.
Best return on investment sought. Seven board members with some great minds. Asked a lot of questions. How money has been spent, how to use it differently in some case.
$600,000 estimated 18-19 conservative estimate
Expenditures: two full time and one part time position.
Johnston brings up car rental business city is engaged in. Yes, Mayor says and we will look at this.
Did not use about $82,100 two years ago. We could landscape the area behind the USO building. Got some quotes, but have not gotten every far. Have not yet expended these funds. Space is used sometimes for entertainment. Have plants that look great will really be great for more events. We have some rain catchment off that roof. Mayor thinks that the council can do something big with this, wants input. Marfa museum allocated $60,000 for building repairs out of historical preservation fund, contractor has not moved on this yet.
Joey Benton’s crew is going to look at it once they finish the building across from Paisano.
Advertising: 85,714.  One seventh of the overall revenue. Required minimum to spend on advertising.
Economic input study ordered at $5000.
Membership dues for coop for advertising dues, distribution of pamphlets, etc.
Keep Texas  beautiful membership
Event security expense. When city has a major event can reimburse city Police Dept for event security. $45,000 goal for reimbursement.
Airport grant match. Budgeted $50,000 for this year.
Enabled by legislative action. Check and balance public hearing will be held. City has to prove that generated improvements generate revenues commensurate with grant.
Vehicles: Rental vehicles. Marfa is the only city on the state doing car rental with purchased vehicles. Atty says this is a very gray area.
Definition of transportation systems at play.
Mayor asks Baeza about this, started about five years ago.
Car rental process is questioned. Judge Beebe asks why worry so much about being challenged on the car rental system if there isn’t anybody complaining about the system itself.
Deirdre says that if we can tighten up our system we may not garner a complaint. More discussion about the airport runways, grant funds from HoT tax to county.
Minerva Lopez elaborates on how the rental car business works for the tourists.
Talk about the money people are spending while they are here, they are required to be staying in a hotel or air B.B. that pays taxes into the fund in order to rent the car.
Robert Halpern asks about Air BB payments. Are we collecting? Brechtel says yes, we monitor online listings and activity and contact them.

Had to leave meeting at 8:34 pm for rehearsal.

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