Op Ed: Ignoring voters is patently beyond the authority of any City Council

The following was written and submitted by Don Hormachea.

On August 16th, 2014, the City of Sandy Oaks held it’s first City Council meeting. Among various things discussed and decided, Arturo Martinez DeVara, Mayor of Von Ormy, was appointed as City Attorney for 60 days, to allow for advertising the position and accepting applications. Also passed were agenda items 15, authorizing a ½% sales tax for street maintenance and item 16, authorizing a 1 ½% sales tax for the general fund. Mister DeVara, after noting that item 16 actually needed to be split in two propositions, one for 1 % and another for ½%, filed these Council actions with the Bexar County Elections Commission, and on November 4th they appeared on the ballot as follows:

  • Proposition 1: 1% sales tax for general purposes, 165 votes for (56%), 132 votes against (44%)
  • Proposition 2: 1/2% additional sales tax for general purposes, 151 votes for (51%), 145 votes against (49%)
  • Proposition 3: 1/4% sales tax for road maintenance, 194 votes for (65%), 104 votes against (35%)

Note that proposition 3 had magically been transformed, presumably while in Mr. DeVara’s possession, into ¼%, rather than the ½% originally approved by the City Council.

In any case, a citizen of Sandy Oaks who noted prior to the February 12th Council meeting that the sales tax being charged in the City of Sandy Oaks (in it’s one business)was only 6 ¾% and became curious as to why. He found that San Antonio [VIA’s] MTA was collecting ½% sales tax and the State was collecting 6 ¼% sales tax, giving a sales tax rate for the City of 6 ¾%. If the City’s voter-approved sales tax had been added to this, the City’s sales tax rate would have become 8 ½%, ¼% higher than state law allows. This was brought to the City Council’s attention at the February 12th City Council meeting, and produced the promise “We’ll research it”. At least some research was apparently done, because a special meeting was called for February 26, with the following agenda items:

  • 4. Deliberate among the City Council the appropriate allocation of the legally allowed sales tax limits.
  • 5. Create a Resolution to be presented in it’s final form during the meeting, voted by the City Council and executed by signature(s).
  • 6. Prepare the required documents to present to the State Comptroller’s Office in order that the assessment and collection of sales tax can occur.

There are only two major issues with this. First, the City Council, in an attempt to fix an illegal sales tax issue, voted to ignore Proposition 3, which had been duly approved by the voters of the City, an act that is patently beyond the authority of any City Council. There is only a small difference between this and the amount of the sales tax changing somewhere between the City Council and the November ballot, and this is much worse. Having done so, they then proceeded to compound the error by failing to provide the resolution as required by:

(a) Within 10 days after an election in which the voters approve of the adoption or abolition of a tax authorized by this chapter, the governing body of the municipality shall by resolution or ordinance entered in its minutes of proceedings, declare the results of the election. A resolution or ordinance under this section must include statements showing:
(1)the date of the election;
(2)the proposition on which the vote was held;
(3)the total number of votes cast for and against the proposition; and
(4)the number of votes by which the proposition was approved.

Note that this Resolution was approved, not prior to November the 14th, 2014, as required by this particular law, but on February 26th, 2015, 2 months and 14 day afterwards.

It is unlikely in the extreme that this ameliorative action, due to its illegality, will be excepted by the Comptroller’s Office. If it is, the citizens of Sandy Oaks, both in and out of Waterwood should protest and do so loudly, not to the City Council, whose arrogance and disdain for the citizens is apparently epic, but to the Comptroller himself, the State Attorney General and, possibly, to Gregg Abbott, the Governor Elect.

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