GILMER — City Manager Greg Hutson on Tuesday provided a preview for the Gilmer City Council of a gathering in Longview today to resist a tax-cap bill being pushed by GOP lawmakers in Austin.
Hutson said city and economic development leaders from “Center to Texarkana” would convene at Pinecrest Country Club to muster resistance against House Bill 2 and its Senate companion. The measures would require cities, counties and other taxing units to get voter approval for property tax increases over a set amount. That amount began at 2.5 percent, and was increased to 3.5 percent for cities and counties in a Senate-passed version.
“We may have to decide, do the police get new vehicles or employees get raises,” Hutson said of the budget-limiting effect such a tax cap could have on cities and counties.
The idea, proposed by Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott, House Speaker Dennis Bonner and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, is part of lawmakers’ attempt to lower property taxes in the redesign of how schools are funded.
“It’s not the cities and counties that people are paying high taxes on,” Hutson said. “It’s the school districts. (Lawmakers) have got to have somebody to blame, and we’re the scapegoats.”
Hutson said state Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, who represents Upshur and Gregg counties, is not among those pushing for a tax cap.
Dean said later the 2.5 percent cap is a fluid issue, and nothing is settled in the House.
“From the House perspective, this is still a developing issue,” he said. “There is no firm rollback rate in this bill at this time. ... We listen to our constituents, and we work from that premise.”
Regardless, Gilmer council members were unanimous in approval of a resolution being circulated by the Texas Municipal League decrying the measure.
Today’s tax-cap meeting, organized by Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck, is at 11:30 a.m. at Pinecrest Country Club, 214 Club Drive off Cotton Street one block east of Eastman Road.
In other action Tuesday, the council wiped out a $6,450 building permit fee for the nonprofit Yamboree Festival Board. The group is building a new $1.6 million to $2 million, 24,000-square-foot main building on its namesake grounds.
The Yamboree board request was granted after board member Steve Dean reminded the council the Yamboree was the driving fundraising force behind the Gilmer Civic Center.
Councilman Brian Williams, who represented the Yamboree Board in bringing the request, also assured the council Yamboree will steer business to the Civic Center and not compete with it.
Also Tuesday, outside auditor Karen Jacks delivered the best assessment of Gilmer’s bookkeeping practices available, a so-called clean opinion. Jacks’ audit report did not include any recommended changes to financial internal controls.
The council also took no action on whether to oppose or support a rate increase being requested of the Texas Railroad Commission by Centerpoint Energy.
“We can’t do anything about it, anyway,” Councilman William Hornsby said. “They are going to do it, anyway.”