Uvalde city manager Vince DiPiazza announced during the special council meeting, held Tuesday at 6 p.m., that the current budget maintains the 2018-2019 rate of 69.99 cents, rather than the initially proposed 2019-2020 rate of 72.68 cents per $100 valuation, which was equal to the rollback rate.
He said the rate represents a slight increase from the effective tax rate of 68.99 cents per $100 valuation, which is the rate needed to generate the same amount of revenue as was raised the previous year.
DiPiazza apologized to council members for the state of the budget, referencing delays exacerbated by the pending retirement of finance director Phillip Conner, who has been helping with the budget from afar as much as possible due to health concerns. Connor will officially step down next month.
Mayor Don McLaughlin Jr. expressed concern for generating enough money to maintain street repairs, an ongoing project, as well as gathering funds to add some seal coating to roads.
Two Uvalde residents addressed council members at the public portion of the meeting held to discuss the City of Uvalde’s tax rate.
Uvalde resident Diana Olvedo-Karau was the first to speak at the start of the public meeting, which was opened at 6:08 p.m. She spoke of how unfortunate it was that more citizens don’t attend meetings to voice opinions to government officials.
“In Uvalde County we have property valued at over, as a whole, at least $4 billion,” Olvedo-Karau said. “The taxable portion of that market value is a little less than 50 percent, so 50 percent of market value is not being brought into the coffers of the city, the county, the school districts, and every other taxing district that exists in our county.”
She said that is a legislative issue and would need to be fought on that level against lobbies for non-disclosure laws and ag-land use that she said need to be reformed to be more equitable. She asked that council stop adding fees for citizens on top of property taxes, and cut losses, giving the golf course as an example.
“It’s nice to have a golf course, but can we afford to have a golf course?”
Next to speak was Venesa Davila, who said her family is from Uvalde and she is a long-time Uvalde resident, and this was her first time addressing council members. She reiterated many people are anxious about rising taxes, though not many often attend meetings to speak.
She expressed concerns about citizens possibly leaving Uvalde to look for better opportunities.
“At the same time you’re raising all these rates for taxes, but yet the amount of money most people make here in Uvalde is not going up,” said Davila.
Councilman Rogelio Muñoz Jr. said that though council cut the tax rate significantly last year, going from 78.40 cents per $100 valuation, to 69.99 – a 8.41-cent decrease – appraised property values went up for most people, which is why people may feel they are paying more.
Davila said people understand they have to pay taxes, but the amount needs to come down or be maintained. She referenced poor living standards she has observed at her job during home visits, which she feels are due to lack of funds for some Uvalde residents.
McLaughlin spoke of city staff efforts to broaden the tax base by fighting to get Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing to stay, to attract Hobby Lobby to create the Uvalde store, and how they are now fighting to get a mental-health facility constructed in Uvalde to employ approximately 120 people.
Councilman John H. Flores Jr. spoke of limited resources being available to the city of Uvalde, and the need to create a cushion in the budget to cover unexpected expenses. The hearing closed at 6:30 p.m.
The second public hearing to solicit comments on projects to be considered for year 2019-2020 subsequently opened.
DiPiazza said if there were projects anyone would like to ask be considered to be funded with city money, this was the time. No one spoke and the meeting closed at 6:31 p.m.
The next public meeting regarding the tax rate will be held Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. during the regular city council meeting held in the second-floor council chambers at city hall.