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Mason County News
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City Corner
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 • Posted August 15, 2012

This week I am just trying to take care of the regular City business and let our residents know about a few changes that you might wish to comment on.

Next Monday evening the City Commission will meet, and on that agenda is discussion of several issues that affect all of us such as the annual budget, some rate changes to our regular fees and the property tax rates for this year. Decisions on most of these discussions will not be made until September, but now is the time to discuss them and reach conclusions on how our citizens and commissioners wish to move ahead. The Annual Budget continues to plan for a positive cash flow and has been filed with the City Secretary and is available for anyone to look through at the City Office. There are very few changes to the budget from previous years beyond changes to allow for increases and changes in costs, labor and new expectations for our City services. The Budget does continue to grow a little and is again over $5,300,000 and this year we have separated several expenses into our Capital Projects Fund that add an additional $628,000 to the City spending expectations. These include the annual payments for two previous capital improvements, and new expenses for equipment and vehicles, Community Building improvements, an increase in paving projects and the first construction phase of our waste water plant improvements.

The Property Taxes the City collects amounts to less than 4% of the total property tax billed by the Appraisal District, and I have certainly heard the many concerns regarding increases in this tax for the coming year. The City tax rate will undoubtedly be reduced from last year with a maximum of 0.137661 per $100 valuation compared to 0.141376 last year, but with the increased adjusted tax base we will receive a reasonable increase in tax revenues. With the improving economy we are also seeing an increase in the Sales tax revenues, and surprisingly this has been a larger tax source than property taxes for many years and we expect that to continue.

We are planning to discuss a few rate increases to offset expenses for the coming year, although there are no increases in the base rates for electricity, water and sewer, regular garbage rates, and most of the building permit rates. Water rates are recommended to be increased only for high volume usage for both residential and commercial customers, and Sewer rates are recommended to be slightly increased for usage above the base rate to marginally offset the cost of improvements at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. There is an added charge at the landfill for the disposal of brush and tree limbs of one cent per pound, to offset the cost of grinding the brush pile when it accumulates. The permit fee for signs, fences and demolition is recommended to be increased to $25 since city staff visits each site requesting a permit and spends significant time explaining regulations and options to most customers. These are most all of the planned increases in rates, and the intent is to not burden any one too much and add fees to those residents who make use of particular services of the City.

The other issue that is high priority in the next few weeks is a discussion with highway department representatives about the speed limits through our town and safety issues in response to the propane truck incident a week ago. Judge Bearden and I have an appointment before the end of this month to sit down with some TxDOT engineers, and we have been looking through the Texas Transportation Code to better understand the specific things we can do to protect our town and our citizens. After several hours of reading through many pages of legal and regulatory code, I am beginning to feel secure that we can support and take action to lower the speed limits within the city limits on the major highways as well as the farm to market roads that fan out from our square. It may involve a series of meetings and strong persuasion of the bureaucracy, but with the concerns we all have regarding the recent accident and the speed of vehicles in our neighborhoods this is something that demands we work together to find a better answer.

All of these issues are being discussed and prepared to present to the City Commission at our next regular meeting. If you have concerns or suggestions, I am always interested in hearing them and will try to respond if you will email me at brent.hinckley@cityofmason.us or catch me around town. Also, if you would like to be heard in a public meeting, please come to our next meeting on Monday, August 20, at 5:30 pm at the Eckert Civic Center and we will be glad to listen to your comments. The City of Mason is your town, and together we will continue to improve and make this the best hometown in Texas.

Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hincklely

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