• August 19, 2019

City approves debt despite protest - Odessa American: City Of Odessa

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City approves debt despite protest

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Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2019 5:28 pm

Council members approved the debt with a 5-1 vote during their Tuesday meeting. District 4 Council Member Tom Sprawls was the sole vote against the issuance, having said he would prefer to bring the issue before voters. At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean was out of town. 

Projects proposed to be undertaken using the $93 million debt issuance include a new animal shelter for the Odessa Police Department, an additional fire station in north Odessa, and multiple roadway improvement projects. 

Before approving the debt, many Odessa residents approached the council, disapproving of the debt issuance and asking for the chance to vote on such an option. 

Richard Pierce said he knew many of the projects were needed, and said he would vote for a bond if it did go to a vote, but did not approve of the City Council approving the bond without taking it to the voters. 

“I feel that $93 million in obligation bonds, it’s a lot to approve without putting it to the voters. It’s a lot of debt,” Pierce told the council. “We the people put our trust in you when we elected you, but something this large, I believe, should be put to the residents of Odessa.”

Former District 4 Council Member Mike Gardner also spoke out. While he said he understood the need for the debt, he also had concerns about approving the debt without approval from voters. 

“Do we have it written down in stone what this $93 million is going to or is it something that you guys can just mess with how you want to?” Gardner asked. “I would like for there to be some accountability for what you’re spending the money on.” 

Larry Robinson also told council members he believed the debt should be a bond issue for voters to decide on, and said voters would not support efforts presented with lack of trust, transparency and communication. 

“The city has been doodling in the margins of the State Debt Code,” Robinson said. “There is no emergency, there has been no disaster. Many cities have used this method of circumventing the public’s vote to envelop their taxpayers with huge debt … Please do not go forward on this without the voters’ support.”

Before finally approving the debt, District 5 Council Member Mari Willis said the council heard the concerns, but that she would be voting yes because the debt would pay for dire needs for the city. 

“Many of these needs, in my opinion, are in very critical condition, and some even on life support,” Willis said. “I don’t believe it is being fiscally irresponsible. I feel to not address the issues and let them die, and then eventually having to attempt to revive them from death would be fiscally irresponsible.”

The city will receive the $93 million in debt Sept. 12.

Council members also voted unanimously in favor of proposing to establish the tax rate for the next fiscal year at $0.476601 per $100 valuation, the same rate as last year. This is still effectively a tax increase due to property values rising. Assistant City Manager Cindy Muncy said there would be a $68 increase for the year in property taxes for the average home value, which was evaluated to be $144,018. 

Pierce spoke to council members again, this time in favor of keeping the rate the same. 

“I say this knowing my property taxes will go up, but the city needs the money,” Pierce said. “Just don’t raise the rate in the future. As long as you keep it the same rate, I’ll be for it.”

 There will be two public hearings about the proposed rate at 6 p.m. Aug. 27 and Sept. 10. The final two votes to establish the rate will be held Sept. 23 and Sept. 24. 

Odessa, TX

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