HUTTO – Hutto City Council approved a pair of ordinances to protect senior citizens and the disabled from property tax increases during its April 15 meeting.
Mayor Mike Snyder explained that the ordinance was needed to address a problem a prior ordinance that set the homestead exemption at $57,000. Snyder said the council’s intent was to protect the elderly and disabled from a property tax increase enacted last year.
The ordinance passed April 15, simply codifies the council’s intent. It reduces the homestead exemption to $30,000, with an accompanying ordinance that puts the same ceiling in place for taxpayers who meet the Williamson County disability criteria. Both ordinances make the same provision for a surviving spouse of a senior citizen or disabled property owner.
Everybody will have a ceiling as they turn 65 and both ordinances will “drop off” in 2022, Snyder added.
Transportation Impact Fee
The council also passed a Transportation Impact Fee that will establish a fee to the developer based on the expected increase in traffic created by the project. A July 2018 ordinance did set a fee, but the city had waived collection in March 2019.
Developers will be required to pay the fee based on the final approved plat.
Mayor Pro Tem
Council members tabled consideration of an ordinance related to the appointment of a mayor pro tem awaiting the outcome of the charter amendment election on May 1.
Councilman Peter Gordon pointed out that the results of the election in two weeks would supersede any decision by the council on April 15.
Council members debated whether to continue attendance requirements for volunteers who serve on city boards and commissions. The Mayor cited the work load placed on city staff to maintain attendance records on the large number of boards and commissions. Some only meet four times a year or less, while others meet every two weeks.
Council members Salvo and Sutton expressed their view that attendance requirements help establish accountability. Each of the boards has to establish a quorum to conduct business and each of the members has to remain aware of the business before the group.
A board member is subject to removal if they miss 25 percent of the meetings within a calendar year.
Citizen comments voiced the importance of members living within the city limits, as opposed to residents within the ETJ.
Perry Savard, chair of the Parks Advisory Board, told the council that the board chairs are fully aware of the attendance records of their fellow members, and it’s not necessary for city staff to keep attendance records.
Savard also voiced concern about designating a specific city official for board chairs to work with on attendance concerns and other matters. He noted that the council liaison for the Parks Advisory Board was not at the April 15 meeting, and he didn’t expect her to be present in the future.
Savard also argued for the necessity of keeping some discretion to excuse absences for good reason. One valuable board member recently underwent heart surgery but has an outstanding record of service on the board.
Snyder pointed out that the element of discretion invites subjectivity into the question of whether to remove a board member, opening the door to litigation.
The mayor also said many council members were not aware of the ordinance establishing attendance requirements, which meant it had not been enforced. Snyder also referred to the recent removal of a member of the Ethics Review Board for a comment made to another person in the parking lot after a meeting.
The council ultimately passed a revised version of the amendment that allows board vacancies to be filled, and will take up attendance requirements at a future meeting.