Last week, on Monday September 14, the City Commission met for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, and there were several actions from the agenda that affect all of us and I wanted to take a minute to share them with you. We began with two different Public Hearings in which we solicited your input on the annual budget and City property tax rate, and on the route of the new water main to be constructed on the north side of town. As is often the situation, few people appeared to comment publicly about either issue, but it is important that your elected officials are prepared to hear your opinions at any time. Once we moved on to New Business there was much more discussion as we worked out some details about the budget for the next fiscal year. We agreed to increase the operational funding for the Volunteer Fire Department as was requested, and the bid for accounting and audit services was a little higher than we had originally planned for, but with a little rearranging we managed to balance the budget and move forward. There was also some discussion about the Appraisal District budget and the city’s portion of funding, and a compromise was reached to allow us to approve the entirety of the City’s budget and then agree upon setting the property tax rate for 2009.
The City of Mason will spend a little more than $4,900,000 next year for operating and providing the services you expect, and we do not anticipate any increase in the rates and fees you will have to pay. In addition there is Capital Projects budget of $718,000 for infrastructure improvements and equipment we need. In total, your elected officials will oversee spending about Five and a Half MILLION dollars of your public funds in the next year, so it is important that we be wise and alert to your needs and concerns. Also, the property tax rate for the city will actually go down, although the amount we collect will increase by about 8% because of the increases in appraised values around town. In consideration of adopting the city budget, there were also several resolutions and contracts that were approved in the process. The city has moved to increase the retirement benefit our long-term employees enjoy, although we could not justify any raises in salaries this year because of the uncertain economy. We also approved contracts for Engineering Services for some of the water main construction that is a part of the Capital Projects, and we approved the Letter of Engagement for Auditing Services which is required each year.
There were several other items that were not as demanding, but none the less important. We heard a report about the Renewable Energy Roundup that will be in Fredericksburg on September 25 – 27 and is something that many of us are interested in and that will play a more important part in our lives in the years ahead. We also considered some property issues after having the City Attorney report back on all of the various parcels of property the City owns. There are actually 32 different parcels that we have identified, and most all of them have very specific uses in our city activities, but we did identify one lot and two parcels of the Industrial Park property that we are moving forward to offer for sale. Any municipal property that is sold must be by sealed bid or auction, and so we will be preparing the appropriate documents to offer these three lots for sealed bid, and if you would like more information let me know or keep an eye on the legal notices in this paper. We are also looking at the possibility of acquiring some property in the expected right of way for the water main and other possible future development. In addition we had a letter in our packet from the Texas Comptroller announcing that all small cities would be receiving some funds from the stimulus money to help with energy conservation programs or projects.
The last item of business on the agenda was consideration of the position of City Administrator and decisions on how we might advertise and see about filling that position. There is an ad in this paper and we will be posting the position in some other places. In the next couple of months the Commission will review all applications that come in, interview some of the applicants, and we expect will try to fill that position about the first of the year. If you know of someone who might be qualified, and would work hard to manage the City with the best interests of Mason at heart, please let me know, or have them contact me at email@example.com and we will answer any questions they might have.
Last week’s meeting was a long one, and as you can see there was a lot to discuss and a number of decisions that the Commission had to reach. There have been a number of issues arising recently and we have been busy in the City office to keep up with all of them. One other issue that took a distinct turn after our meeting was the consideration of the study area for routing Transmission Lines from west Texas to San Antonio. We passed a resolution that I forwarded to the Public Utility Commission Tuesday recommending that we in Mason did not want them to extend the study area into Mason County, and then on Thursday morning I learned that the day before the decision was made to request that extension. I think that this is a grave and very important issue for our small town, and in another article in this paper I have briefly explained why. I also have called a Town Hall meeting on Monday, September 28 at 2:00 p.m. for our citizens to meet with representatives from LCRA to be informed of what this extension means to us, what the actual time frame for study and decisions might be, and how we can reasonably reply and impact the process. I urge everyone that is available that day to come to the Richard Eckert Civic Center to hear the factual message about this threat to our town, and not rely on the often exaggerated comments of the “rumor mill”. Mason is in my opinion the very best hometown in Texas, and together we can continue to build upon the foundation our ancestors left for us and move into the future to leave it a better place for our children and grandchildren.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley