Voters also approved the sales tax-rate increase, bringing our rate equal to that of all our neighboring cities. While it’s not a huge benefit to the city revenue, a consumption tax paid by those both in AND OUTSIDE our city lifts some of the burdens off the backs of property-taxpayers. It can also bolster the city council’s ability to lower the tax rate, as property taxes continue to climb. This ballot measure demonstrates my commitment to letting the people give consent before raising taxes.
The current sales tax rate in McLendon-Chisholm is 7.75% (6.25% goes to the State and 1.5% goes to the City of McLendon-Chisholm). The survey results showed overwhelming support for the city to increase the sales tax rate, which is why the City Council voted unanimously to call a Special Election to propose a ½ cent increase that would make the City’s sales tax rate 2.0%. If the proposition is approved, the sales tax rate in McLendon-Chisholm will be 8.25%, the same rate charged by all other cities in Rockwall County.
This fulfills my campaign promise that any increase in taxes should only come with the expressed consent of the people.
That’s representative government!
Immediately following last night’s public hearing where there was no opposition to my proposed change to the city ordinance, which will free homeowners who successfully complete a TCEQ class, from the unnecessary burden of paying for an annual contract with a septic company to “maintain” their system, passed unanimously. In my March 27 post, Let Homeowners “Maintain Their Own Septic System, I explain why the only impact that this ordinance will have is on the pocketbooks of citizens who take advantage of the exception, as they will no longer be saddled with the obligation of paying for something that they can easily do themselves. I wish to express my sincere thanks to citizen Herb Harker, for bringing this issue to me and for the considerable amount of time he invested to research this issue and provide me with facts that I could bring before the city council to review. Despite considerable opposition by bureaucrats who made attempts to thwart this effort, I also wish to thank my fellow council members, Lovell, Herren, Orchard, and Short for their enthusiastic support of this measure!
Before the approved amendments to the ordinance can be ratified, the state must grant approval, which we believe will come before July.
The survey results show overwhelming support for the city to increase the sales tax rate, which is why I made the motion to put this measure on the ballot for the voters to formally approve in this May’s municipal elections.
This fulfills my campaign promise that any increase in taxes should only come with the expressed consent of the people. The survey provides expressed consent, however, placing this on the ballot gives voters full control.
That’s representative government!
Since I was elected, I have been advocating for the city council to conduct a citizen survey, which I feel will help foster a change in mindset for more “representative-minded” government. I believe that it will help to quash the arguments of our city’s high-minded liberals who assert that citizens want to see our city government grow and expand. Maybe this will finally settle whether or not citizens want our city’s 1.5 acre minimum per homestead standard enforced.
Even though the Mayor and members of the Council received an MS Word version of these questions almost two weeks ago and were asked to send in their proposed changes or suggest questions of their own, only Councilman Wayne Orchard did that (the link to the proposed survey questions is included at the end of this post).
So for any member of the council to suggest that the questions are bad, improper, or unfair would be the acme of hypocrisy, since they have offered nothing in contrast.
At the beginning of our City Council meeting to set the budget, one citizen stood up to challenge the council, but pointedly emphasized it’s importance on me in particular, to share what we did to get input from citizens regarding our position on the budget and setting the tax-rate before we vote.
Why, just months after I was elected by a landslide where turnout for a municipal election was five times greater than ever before in the city’s history, where after leading the fight to put it on the ballot, the tax-rollback, which garnered the most votes of all, was a central part of my campaign, should the onus of getting citizen feedback be placed so squarely on me?
Why wouldn’t that challenge be more aptly place most especially on other members?
After all during last year’s budget vote one member gave a 20 minute presentation extolling the virtues of his proposed $0.32 tax rate, a 228% increase without paying any respect or giving any acknowledgement of the written pledge by 227 registered voters to sign a formal petition to require that a tax-rollback initiative be placed on the ballot IF the council set the tax rate above $0.16, which actually would have been an increase to the tax-rate beyond that which was protected by state law to fund their new city hall bond, which was another egregious act to keep information from taxpayers, rather than advocating to ensure that the people were duly informed.
The answer as to why “Steinhagen” and not “others” is unmistakable; MC’s left, that is fixated on growing the size and scope of our government and raising city taxes, holds conservatives like me to a different standard than they hold for themselves.
This is why they insist that I demonstrate support for my position, but give themselves a pass on meeting the same standards.
I shared a representative sample of feedback from an email to 89 of my key supporters who are taxpaying, law-abiding citizens and voters, where all but two of the 67 that responded, (many emails were from a husband and wife, which I count as two since both vote) agreed with my plan to move for a balanced budget and increase funding to the volunteer fire department [VFD] by 20% over last year so that a citizen’s survey could be conducted in advance of the final council meeting of the year, so that voters could weigh in on adding to the the VFD’s funding by contributing last year’s surplus.
While my numbers for the amount going to the VFD ended up being inflated by about thirteen thousand dollars (which I wrote about in my earlier post), the fundamental intent of the email was to gage the support from those who were most responsible for getting me elected. I presented three viable options which were for 1) cutting the tax rate and giving the VFD a modest (3% increase in funding over last year) 2) budget for deficit spending to give the VFD a 47% increase over last year even though those funds would essentially come out of last year’s surplus, or 3) passing a balanced budget to allow for citizens, though a survey, to give us the green light to pass that surplus on to the VFD (which I recommended).
Did those other Council Members share feedback from citizens he polled? Of course not, because they didn’t send out any emails asking for feedback!
Did either of those facts make any difference to M-C’s tax and spend left? Of course not.
Of course, the feedback that I’d received had no impact to the opinions of the left, arging that it not a large enough sample of citizens, despite the fact that more people responded to my email than put most members in office. And since past actions is the best predictor of future behavior, it is reasonable to conclude that if I had presented feedback from 200 citizens, their position would have been no different.
M-C’s left epitomize the following Bible verse:
A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind. -Proverbs 18:2
Shouldn’t we all be held to the same high standards?
Shouldn’t we require one another to argue facts with facts, compare empirical evidence to empirical evidence, to demonstrate the convictions of our beliefs through the actions we take?
Perhaps; but history proves the futility in holding others to the same high standards many of us hold for ourselves.
I actually voted against my own motion (which Councilman Short would not allow me to amend), because I was made aware that my proposed increase for the city’s [taxpayer] contribution to the volunteer fire department [VFD] (22% over last year) would have resulted in an eleven thousand dollar deficit to the total final budget amount.
Despite the fact that we were approving the annual fiscal budget, neither the city’s accountant nor attorney were present for the meeting, which, despite my efforts (I’m not an accountant), made it impossible for me to figure out why the spreadsheet I had been using throughout the budget process wasn’t adding up.
Before the vote was completed, I made clear to everyone that I would immediately make another motion which would correct my clerical error with a 20% increase over last year to city’s [taxpayer] contribution for the VFD, which would result in a balanced budget!
I never got the chance to make that corrected motion, however!
Instead, Councilman Orchard moved to approve the budget unamended as proposed, which leaves the city with a $66,997 deficit. The motion passed 3 to 2, where Councilman Klutts and I voted against it.
Had the council adopted a balanced budget, I was willing to vote for the current tax rate (the only other option was to lower it). However, since the state has established that maintaining an existing tax rate when property assessments increase, is the equivalent of a tax increase (a fact for which I was unaware when I ran for city council), I wasn’t willing to support the current rate, just to bolster increased spending without the consent of the people.
Councilman Klutts and I lost that vote too.
In defense of the Council majority, this deficit equates to the surplus from this previous year, but it’s still a deficit.
It came because the VFD requested, and is receiving, a 47% increase over last year’s city contribution (the VFD is independent of the city and covers other jurisdictions where roughly half of the VFD’s calls are outside the city) which amounts to an additional $103,089, for a total contribution by city taxpayers of $320,650. This amounts to 26% of the city’s entire budget.
Though well over half the VFD’s geographic jurisdiction falls outside of the city limits, ninety percent of this year’s budget for the VFD is funded by taxpayers who live INSIDE the city (this percentage includes half of $67,500 from the county given through a “government grant”…which is taxpayer dollars).
Councilman Klutts and I were advocating to first approve a balanced budget, which would allow time for the city to conduct a citizens survey so that taxpayers can weigh in and provide direct support or opposition to dipping into the reserve funds to increase VFD funding. However, Council-members Orchard, Short, and Lovell disagreed.
Increasing the city’s annual contribution may be a good and worthy use of last year’s budget surplus, especially since the city provides no other services to the community, but ONLY IF it is given with the consent of taxpayers.
NOTE. Over the past two years, the Council has voted to increased the city’s contribution to the VFD (100% increase in 2015, 91% increase in 2016) without submitting any projections for an increase the following year. In fact, this year we’ve been told only that next year they will be requesting more.
Following years of discussion, last night, the City Council finally voted unanimously on my motion to provide MC’s seniors the right to cap their city taxes. This means that homeowners who are 65 years and older may cap the municipal tax-rate at whatever rate is in force at the time they opt-in.
Should the tax rate ever be reduced, those who have opted-in will also see the reduction, but it can never go up from that point. The tax cap only applies to a homestead and seniors must opt-in with the County Assessor to be eligible.
This action is irrevocable and marks the first of many steps I hope to see the council take to protect taxpayers.
The most fundamental of these goals is imposing restrictions on city government to ensure that in the future, THE PEOPLE must first give consent to
- raise the tax rate,
- go into debt,
- take away the personal liberty of what citizens can do on their own property, and/or
- violate the standards of our city that are supposed to protect our wide-open spaces & more rural lifestyle!
More than any other action I take, these four items will forever save our city from rogue officials and special interest groups from hijacking the unique lifestyle that is sure to turn MC into the most treasured communities in North Texas.
In addition, I hope to either act or begin the process to act on the following in these first one hundred days (in no particular order).
- DONE!!! Pass a Senior Tax Cap. This will protect our senior citizens from future MC tax-rate increases by locking-in the current rate (seniors can already lock-in the current tax rate for County and School taxes, but the city council must first approve this before it can carry-over to city taxes).
- DONE!!! Enact parliamentary procedures under Robert’s Rules of Order to govern all meetings of the council. This will ensure that power-hungry leaders cannot quash citizens and members of the council.
- DONE!!! Adopt a “Code of Ethics.” This should include comprehensive and more rigorous transparency standards for city government.
- Begin the process to add an NOAA warning siren or sirens inside the MC city limits.
- Repeal the newly adopted city plan. The city plan was constructed using a flawed vision for the city guided by special interest groups to the detriment and without the input or consent of the people of MC.
- Determine if a City Administrator truly benefits the city.
- Evaluate the current City Administrator’s performance and determine if the city is best served by this individual.
- Determine if a City Planner truly benefits the city.
- Evaluate the current City Planner’s performance and determine if the city is best served by this individual.
- Evaluate the current City Attorney.
- Some actions/inactions of the city attorney demonstrate insufficient competence to effectively serve the city and protect citizens rights at the most basic levels.
- Evaluate why part-time clerical help has been deemed necessary.
- Establish an ordinance restricting the city council from designating its members with honors that should be reserved for citizens only. This year, while he was running for re-election, the “Citizen of the Year” was bestowed upon Councilman Steve Hatfield! Other members of city council have also received this honor while they were still on the council!!!
- Restrict the membership of any city committee that is appointed by the mayor &/or council to valid registered voters of MC.
- Prohibit developers/homebuilders, or related parties from serving on any city committee that deals with the planning and zoning of the community.
- Create a new city website that is better suited to meet the needs of the community and help the city better communicate with citizens.
- Evaluate the “real” cost of the city hall construction and report the findings to the people.
- Determine why the city paid for thirteen acres of property for the purpose of building a new city hall when eight of that thirteen were supposed to be given to the city, according to the Triple Creek development agreement.
- Consider and identify possible buyers for the city hall and the property.
- If the city hall and property can sell for at least what was invested by the city, then put the city hall and property up for sale.
- Evaluate a new location to build a new city hall that meets the needs of the city with an emphasis on becoming a city center, rather than municipal office space, one that can be built for less than $1 million.
- Determine the “real” value of the furniture purchased for the new city hall. The city spent $61,559.74 on office furniture in a city that has just two employees!
- Consider selling the furniture in exchange for less-expensive furniture that is better suited for our city and that doesn’t needlessly fill empty offices that will likely sit empty for years to come.
- DONE!!! Evaluate why the city council needs iPads with data plans? I’ve refused the iPad and requested that the data plan is canceled for me, as has Wayne Orchard. I believe that Councilman Short should do likewise (if he hasn’t already done so), however Councilmen Lovell & Klutts have need of the iPads, as their internet connection service is virtually non-existent.
- NOT Allowed: Establish an ordinance that prohibits the city from taking on new financial liabilities that fail to serve the majority of the people without voters’ expressed consent. Apparently, we have no authority to place restrictions on future Councils.
- Establish standards of accountability between RCH and the city.
- Establish higher standards of accountability between the MC Volunteer Fire Department & the city.
- Require the disclosure and distribution of an annual financial audit.
- Engage and coordinate with the MC Volunteer Fire Department to improve their fundraising efforts.
- Change the official newspaper for MC. The Rockwall Herald-Banner has proven to be, in the words of Vladimir Lenin, the “useful idiots of the government; “more specifically, MC’s “former” political ruling class. Our city tax dollars cannot continue to support an Alabama-owned, propaganda-driven newspaper where other locally owned newspapers can better serve our community.
Did the value of your home go up or down this year? I’ll answer that for you; it went up…significantly! That’s because MC has become a more desirable place to live, which has created a greater demand for homes; hence our homes and properties are worth more.
Since the amount we pay in taxes is based on the assessed value of our home and/or property, our taxes continue to rise in proportion to our valuations.
EVEN IF the tax rate had not increased one penny, you still would have paid more in taxes AND the city, our school district, and our county would have realized a marked increase in tax revenue.
That’s because each year the County Appraisal District is mandated by the state to reassess homes & properties based on “fair market value.”
It’s also why, if not one more home was built inside the city limits of MC this year, next years’ tax revenue will still surpass what’s lost in the rollback, because the values of all our homes and properties have skyrocketed, again!
THE TAX-RATE INCREASE WAS BOTH PREMATURE AND IRRESPONSIBLE!
The regular increases in property valuations in MC is a relatively new phenomenon!
Those leading the rollback opposition were here during the housing crisis; a time when the value of properties was at rock bottom lows. Back then developers went bankrupt where large developments with beautiful entrances and finished streets sat abandoned because there was no demand. This created an overwhelming burden for the city to maintain its three streets and fire department, which led city leaders to impose a property tax.
That mindset has kept them from recognizing the exponential growth in tax revenue WITHOUT A PROPERTY TAX-RATE INCREASE! This is why the foundation of their argument against the rollback is flawed because it’s based on the premise that home values will remain constant.
THE SNOWBALL EFFECT OF HIGHER TAXES AND INCREASED VALUATIONS!
The law of exponents, which is essentially what a tax-rate increase is (a percentage of every $100 assessed value) creates a natural snowball effect that is sure to become more and more burdensome to taxpayers each year that a home or property increases in value, even if the tax rate remains constant.
However, when we couple that with a tax-rate increase, the burden on the taxpayer can become overwhelming. That’s not a big deal for those who want MC to become the Highland Park of Rockwall County, but for those of us who want to preserve the wide-open spaces and a more rural lifestyle, this increase is an albatross.
CONTINUED GROWTH IS BRINGING IN EVEN MORE REVENUE
We all recognize the rapid growth in the number of homes being built in MC every month.
This alone is adding significantly to the number of MC taxpayers, which, just as the increasing valuations of homes/properties are doing, naturally boosts the city’s tax revenue without raising taxes! Of course, we can’t bank on this growth to continue long-term, but it does demonstrate why a tax-rate increase at this time is premature, and why a rollback will have no impact on next year’s budget to fund essential city services, including the fire department.
CAPPING TAXES FOR SENIOR CITIZENS
A few months ago I asked Councilman Gary Lovell, with the support of Councilman Klutts, to propose a tax-cap to senior citizens, which would protect seniors in our community from any future tax-rate increase. The state allows this, however, a city must first approve it.
Though the council-majority spoke favorably about Lovell’s proposal, in the end, they decided to table the motion to a later date, to the objection of Lovell & Klutts.
The number of senior citizens in MC is quite small, but the impact of a tax-rate increase is significant to many of them, especially those who are on fixed incomes. A tax-cap for seniors is the right thing to do and there is no good reason for any fiscal conservative in office to wait on this!
This is just another reason why I ask for your vote on May 7 to elect me as your City Councilman in Place 4.
Blessings, Robert Steinhagen
Candidate for McLendon-Chisholm City Council, Place 4, Founder of Citizens for Representative Government