by Eric Matthews
The three Amigos of tax and spend (i.e. Councilman Swancy, Councilman Waymon Hamilton, and Mayor Hooks) voted for and passed the property tax increase at Tuesday night’s (Sept 22) Council Meeting.
Councilman Clinton and Councilman James Hamilton remained staunch advocates against the property tax increase but, were out voted by a majority vote of 3-2.
That’s not all to this sad story folks. The premise behind the need for the property tax increase was to fund the debt service on the current road projects.
Did you know that the Propositions the citizens of Weatherford voted on in the 2006 General Bond Election for the roads and construction of Fire Station #4 were already sufficiently funded in accordance with the cost projections presented in the 2006 Citizen’s Capitol Advisory Report in
So why the need for the property tax increase? The reason is our City Officials issued $46.7 million in certificates of obligation in 2007 that did not require voter approval in order to fund those costs associated with the Pass Through Toll Agreement with TXDOT. Even though the City was unprepared to take on this project financially it was decided to proceed anyway in order to benefit from the cost incentives offered by TXDOT in hopes of saving money on the overall project. However, due to the effect of the current economy and the cost of materials associated with this project the City is currently struggling to meet a $12 million dollar shortfall on this project with less than 11 months to fund this shortage.
Now here comes the shell game…keep an eye on the pea if you can…
Like General Obligation Bonds, Certificates of Obligation are secured by your Ad Valorem taxes a fancy word for property taxes. The only difference in the two is Certificates of Obligation can be issued to fund debt obligations without the consent of the voters. (Please visit the following website for more information on certificates of obligation: http://www.netarrant.info/Certificates.htm)
So when they say, “the voters voted on the road projects and we are only servicing the debt as it relates to those projects” that is not an entirely accurate statement. The debt that resulted from the issue of $46.7 million in certificates of obligation was not voted on by the voters only that portion as it relates to the 2006 General Bond Election was voted on and approved by the voters.
To compound matters did you know your City Officials have spent $3.3 million of your tax dollars on various fees paid to outside firms for consulting, feasibility studies, and work projects from Oct 2008 to Sept
2009. Let me give you some examples of these fees:
(1) $63,109.52 was paid to Mccord Engineering, Inc (an outside consulting firm) for the Mayor’s Utility Task Force as it related to the electric rate issues surrounding the current utility contract with AEP.
(2) $69, 448.47 was paid to Elim Group (an outside consulting firm) to speak at the Council, WMUB/Staff Retreat that was conducted at the Weatherford Library, June 12, 2009.
(3) $11,000.00 was paid out to Raymond Turco and Associates (an outside firm)for a City Wide Citizen Attitudinal Survey.
(4) $17, 030.00 was paid out for a feasibility study for the Brazos Valley Exchange for the purpose of analyzing the impact of an Equine Convention Center in Weatherford.
(5) $13,030.58 was paid for downtown railing improvements associated with the remodeling that was done on our City Square.
Now, I ask you if the City has well educated, well paid, and experienced Directors and Department heads as employees on City payroll then is it not a waste of tax payer dollars to not be using them for guidance on these various projects, feasibility studies, and staff retreats versus paying an outside consulting firm?
So now that you are aware of the Tip of the Financial Iceberg in our City how do you feel about the property tax increase now? If you were managing your household budgets like the City is being run currently how long do you think it would be before bankruptcy was knocking at your door?
So I’m assuming your next question will be what do we do about this? Simple, exercise your God given right to vote in the next City Council Election in May 2010. Councilman Waymon Hamilton, Councilman Swancy, and Mayor Hooks will be up for re-election.