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 burden 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 mind-set 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 propose 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.
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 dip 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 a 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 is 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 demonstrates insufficient competence to effectively serve the city and protect citizen’s-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 be cancelled 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 prohibit 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 Council’s.
- 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.
As Ronald Reagan liked to say,
“Government isn’t the solution to our problems, government IS the problem.”
I’m running for city council to bring a NEW MINDSET to city hall that is REPRESENTATIVE OF the people; not government.
I believe that the role of government should always be to do the most good, for the most people, at the least cost! No government, at any level, should be in the business of granting personal favors or providing special financial benefits for a minority interest to the detriment of the majority.
When you go and vote on May 7 at our beautiful new city hall/administration building, try to answer for yourself why it is costing us $2.125 million, not including the $260 thousand in land or the guaranteed minimum interest of at least $190 thousand (if paid off early).
It’s an excellent example of why our city leaders need a new mindset!
However, the only way to change the mindset inside city hall is to change the people who are elected into office! It’s why I’m running for city council.
A new mindset means that in the future when/if the city council believes that a tax increase is absolutely necessary, the decision to move forward should rest with taxpayers to give their consent. Any plan for our city’s future must begin by asking the people of MC what kind of city they want MC to become. No limits may be imposed that violates the personal liberty of what citizens may do on their own property, unless the people, through a vote, agree to do so.
The burden then falls on the mayor and city council to convince citizens that the path they want to travel is right, rather than putting the burden on taxpayers without their consent.
Alongside Councilmen Gary Lovell & Jerry Klutts (who are not up for re-election until next year), Wayne Orchard and my election will establish a new majority of four fiscal conservatives!
WITH A NEW CITY COUNCIL MAJORITY, THE FOLLOWING CAN FINALLY BE A REALITY!
Focus on Staying McLendon-Chisholm!
If elected, the new mindset of the city council-majority will turn its focus FROM “becoming the Highland Park of Rockwall County” TO providing essential city services as we preserve our rural community!
Prospective and incoming residents must understand that city leaders are committed to protecting the rural lifestyle punctuated by its wide-open spaces and low tax rate in contrast to what may be found in other cities like Heath and Rockwall. Our goal will be to attract families that prefer the more simple life to a high-end, government service-heavy environment.
It also means that we maintain and enforce the standards within our city that were adopted to protect this unique lifestyle. The problem isn’t that our city needs to raise its standards but those in power need to adhere to and enforce the standards already in place!
Make MC’s Essential Needs THE Priority
This new mindset establishes a renewed commitment to focus on needs over wants in much the same way that most families in MC must live.
This means that city leaders will no longer govern with the mindset that”‘if we want something that we can’t afford we simply generate more revenue by taxing the people.” The city council-majority’s decision to purchase iPads for the Mayor and 5 city council members, with full data plans (in a city with a population of 1,800) is just one example of unrestrained fiscal irresponsibility that must stop!
Instead, when the city has a genuine need, the council first asks “can we afford it and if not, how do we pay for it?”
It also means that decisions that either add debt, increase taxes, or take away the personal liberty of what citizens may do on their own property, are those for the people to decide. This of course will place a huge burden on the mayor and city council to convince voters that something like a tax increase is necessary, instead of placing the burden on taxpayers without their consent!
The Law Abiding Culture of MC
Our goal as a community should not be to create a police department, but should instead be on creating an environment where a city police department is unnecessary. After all, police don’t prevent crime, they enforce the law when it is broken. So when we know and watch out for our neighbors we then become less susceptible to crime.
City’s love police departments for one primary reason; revenue generation!
However, I don’t want to be like residents of Rockwall, Heath, Rowlett, or Highland Park who muse about the day one becomes a “bonafide citizen” is when they get their first traffic ticket!
Place Lasting Limits on City Hall!
To ensure that this mindset never changes, limits will be placed on what our mayor and city council can and cannot do without the people’s consent.
I believe that this is how any local government that is “of,” “by” and “for” the people, SHOULD WORK!
Never Violate the Peoples Trust
One of the things that drew our family to MC was our little city hall building located on 205.
It projected what I interpreted was a fiscally conservative mindset of government. Ironically, it led me to offer blind trust to our city leaders.
Like so many others I’ve talked to, my blind trust made me believe that it was unnecessary to pay attention to what was going on at city hall. After all, I was in a city with a population of less than 2,000, where everyone reportedly knew everyone, which is why I felt confident that city leaders would be sure to include taxpaying citizens like us in future decisions that might put our city into debt, raise our taxes, or limit the personal liberty of what we can do on our own property.
As so many other citizens have expressed to me about themselves, I was admittedly naive in making these assumptions.
We are all now paying the price for our unbridled trust and inattention, locked into a 20-year, $2.125 million bond debt (not including the guaranteed interest) for a city hall/administration building that’s better suited for Highland Park than McLendon-Chisholm, and poorly placed inside our city for convenient access.
Transparency will be the new watchword of a new council-majority with the mindset that citizens WILL hold us accountable to following through on the promises that we make!
MC City Governement Should Never Be Santa Clause
As your city councilman my goal is to provide only those city services that the majority of the people vote to pay for.
This is 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, Co-Founcder of Citizens for Representative Government
The former Mayor of McLendon-Chisholm [MC], Mike Donegan, who opposes the May 7 city tax-rollback ballot initiative, published an article in the Rockwall Herald Banner, where he made OUTRAGEOUSLY FALSE assertions about the rollback’s impact here in this newspaper!
I’d like to set the record straight!
Donegan says that the rollback “will weaken the readiness for the fire department to respond to emergencies” and “place our families at risk,” stipulating that the necessary cuts in budget is “most likely to come out of the fire department.”
However, Donegan’s assertions are incontrovertibly UNTRUE!
Facts prove that all funds approved in the FY budget have already been fully dispersed to the MCVFD (see third page highlighted section in this link to the Meeting Minutes)! This eliminates all questions concerning MC’s obligation to the fire department’s funding. In September, as with every year, the council will approve a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which includes fire department funding.
Now, in contrast to Citizens for Representative Government of MC, a TRUE GRASSROOTS organization, which led the petition drive for the rollback, Donegan has concocted his own tax-rollback opposition group under the pseudonym, Citizens for McLendon-Chisholm.
Donegan “waxed prolific” about the path his group took to establish their newly found opposition to the rollback, which he claims was the result of “diligent study and careful consideration,” but failed to acknowledge his advocacy FOR an even greater tax hike! At a public meeting that I attended, he encouraged the city council to increase the tax-rate by 228% (107% increase was imposed).
Donegan’s rhetoric is better dried out to fertilize the lawn!
As a full-throated supporter, and personal friend, of the mayor and council-majority that imposed the tax increase, Donegan’s so-called “grassroots citizen’s group” is little more than the same collective of political insiders perpetuating the same misinformation to keep MC on a path to where most citizens simply do not want to go!
The group’s website doubles down on their false and misleading assertions where they contend that the only option for those who support our fire department is voting against the rollback! These baseless and incendiary pronouncements are dividing our community between the political ruling class and the people!
In reality, the rollback won’t have any significant impact as law protects most of it because it’s tied to a long-term debt-bond to build a new city hall, about which most citizens knew nothing about and were locked out from voting. Despite pleas by our group to stop construction and scale down the $2.125 million project, which is more than $600 thousand more than was projected, the council-majority turned a deaf ear and charged forward to over-build their over-budget administration building for a city with just two employees.
This tax rollback gives the people a megaphone that our city leaders will no longer be able to ignore.
However, falsifying facts to instill fear in the minds of unsuspecting voters by threatening the safety and welfare of our families is a breathtaking new low by the political elite in MC!
Shame on Mike Donegan and those who stands with him!
READ FOR YOURSELF! The flier below is part of the false and misleading propaganda, which is being distributed by Donegan’s group to unsuspecting voters around MC.