• September 16, 2019

Council moves forward with proposed tax rate - Odessa American: Local News

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Council moves forward with proposed tax rate

Ethics ordinance discussion to continue

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Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 7:51 pm

Odessa City Council pushed back discussion on an updated ethics and code of conduct ordinance to next week.

District 1 Council Member Malcolm Hamilton expressed concern during a City Council briefing Tuesday about the ordinance after saying his input on the item had been rejected. His tone became noticeably more stern than it had been during the previous agenda item.

“(The mayor) said before that all council members have an active role in creating this ordinance,” Hamilton said.

In response, Mayor David Turner said all members have had an opportunity to review the ordinance. He said the consensus between council members at a previous meeting was that the ordinance would be strictly for council and not for appointees for committees whose actions are regulated by policies found in the employee or administrative handbook.

The agenda item summary states ethics includes understanding the role of elected officials and their relationships. The update is supposed to aid in ensuring courtesy and respect among elected officials and toward employees and the public with clear guidelines.

Previously Hamilton has clashed with both the public, the media and employees of the city. Hamilton reportedly shouted at then City Attorney Gary Landers following an October City Council meeting and an Odessa police officer was stationed to guard the lobby of City Hall.

The summary states council members should not consider themselves as actual supervisors or job directors for the city staff, but instead use the established chain of command starting with the city manager. The model is based on the idea of trying to run a city like a business.

Hamilton proceeded to seek clarification on the definition of courtesy and the chain of command for council members going forward.

District 2 City Councilman Dewey Bryant said the city manager would be like the CEO, Turner would be compared to a chairman and other council members would be the equivalent of board members.

“So the council doesn’t have equal weight, is that what we’re saying,” Hamilton said.

“I have a lot of questions about this and concerns about this and I’m not going to be able to cover them in (the briefing’s remaining) 10 minutes so I would prefer that we table it until we have enough time to really discuss this,” Hamilton said.

At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean said she was willing to postpone further discussion.

“We need to probably move it to a time that accommodates your schedule because we have discussed it, and you were not able to be here,” Dean said. “I get that this is a big thing so I’m fine to leave it tabled and then plan it for one of the next two week meetings that Malcolm can for sure be here because I think we’ve kind of hashed it out and he hasn’t and so I think it’s worth doing that.”

Hamilton did not attend a meeting about the ordinance in March. The OA previously reported Hamilton texted Dean during the meeting that he was ill, and had requested the item be tabled because he had several notes and concerns made about the ordinance he wanted to discuss.

“I mean it hasn’t happened before so I don’t know if another week or two is going to make any difference,” Dean said.

The item will be brought back up at the City Council work session on Tuesday.

Following the briefing, council members concluded public hearings on the proposed tax rate during a regularly scheduled meeting and unanimously voted in favor of the 2019-20 budget.

The approved budget lists total revenues of $245,385,610 and total current expenditures of $234,894,423 for all funds without introducing a tax rate change.

Assistant City Manager Cindy Muncy said the budget includes an additional $3.1 million for street maintenance along with adding 17 new employees and giving a 3 percent pay increase to all full-time employees to counteract cost of living.

The cost of the 17 additional positions will increase the budgeted expenditures by about $1.5 million, or .70 percent. Six of the new positions being added will go toward fire and EMS personnel.

Not a single resident commented at the final public hearing about the proposed tax rate. 

The rate maintains the current tax rate of $0.476601 per $100 valuation but still amounts to a tax increase due to higher appraisals.

Muncy said the rate exceeds the effective tax rate of $0.394648 per $100 valuation, which is the total tax rate needed to raise the same amount of property tax revenue for City of Odessa from the same properties in both the 2018 tax year and the 2019 tax year, but it is lower than the rollback rate of .483886 per $100 valuation.

The OA previously reported the proposed rate would amount to about a $68 increase annually for the average home value, evaluated at $144,018.

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