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Council tables asking voters to decide on tax until March

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in News

citygradsMayor Wayne Riddle and City HR Director Bill Philibert honored the city’s four graduates of the Deer Park Municipal Leadership Academy. This year’s graduates are the fourth class of the academy, which was started in 2009. The graduates are Tracy Smith of EMS, Darrel Denzier from IT; Chris Brown from Police and Dawn Crenshaw from Parks and Recreation. Photo by Bobby Vasquez.

City council has tabled discussion and action on placing a .25 percent sales tax for street maintenance on the ballot until its March 5 meeting.

Mayor Wayne Riddle said he was not for a new tax and was hesitant to place it on the ballot unless council unanimously agreed it should be placed. Riddle said it was not often that taxes could be a positive thing, referencing the taxes approved in May 2010.

In May 2010, residents passed two .25 percent sales tax increases to fund fire and EMS and police services. Based on those taxes, city staff estimated this additional tax could generate approximately $1 million for street repairs. Only streets that existed on the day the tax is ratified would be eligible to be funded under the tax.

Councilwoman Rae Sinor said she was not against putting it on the ballot, but only after council "got serious about our issues with the golf course."

Riddle replied that the council is very serious with making it profitable and is in the home stretch of selecting a bid for lease management of the course and restaurant. Riddle said the golf course is an asset with numerous Deer Park organizations using its facilities to raise funds for scholarships.

Sinor replied that they could raise their money elsewhere.

Councilwoman Beckie Stockstill-Cobb said she was not comfortable with the notion that the measure would not be placed on the ballot because one member of council was not for it, citing that it was a majority-rule council.

If voters decided to pass the tax, it would bring a million dollars, which would not be a "huge windfall and would not be enough to fix the entire city," Stockstill-Cobb said. "It's a little bit of money for just street maintenance, nothing else. It's something the voters should have the opportunity to vote on."

Councilmembers Chris Richey and Thane Harrison said they were not against placing it on the ballot and letting voters decide, but would not be comfortable placing it on the ballot, the timing was not right.

"The perception of the general public is that it's just another tax and it is a tax, but one on purchases in our city on taxable items. Whether I am for or against it makes no difference," Harrison said. "We are not approving or disapproving the tax. All we are saying is leave it up to the voters. Do the voters want to have this on the ballot? Probably not."

Riddle agreed with Harrison on the perception.

"It's not the council that is taxing this. We are not doing the tax, we are just putting it on the ballot. The perception is we are the bad guys that put the tax on," he said.

In regular agenda, Council unanimously approved $179,000 in emergency replacement of a 12-inch sewer line for Park Vista Lane; amended incentive pay; and scheduled a joint public hearing with Planning and Zoning on the request of Cynthia Cortez to rezone 4426 Pasadena Boulevard from Single Family-1 (SF1) to Office and Professional (OP); and two separate public hearings on budget amendments from the Crime Control and Prevention and Fire Control and Prevention and Emergency Medical Services districts.

Council met as five council persons and the mayor as member Position 1 Jerry Mouton resigned last week as he announced he will run for mayor.