This article originally appeared in the Friday Aug. 16, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
Mission is about to begin receiving revenue from bingo halls within city limits.
During this week’s city council meeting, the city approved an ordinance that adopts and implements a gross receipt tax (or prize fee) on bingo halls within city limits. As authorized under Texas House Bill 914 (86th Legislative Session) and the Texas Occupations Code, the ordinance allows Mission to collect 2.5 percent from bingo prizes over $5.
House Bill 914 requires a licensed authorized organization conducting a bingo game to collect from a person who wins a bingo prize of more than $5 a fee in the amount of 5 percent of the amount or value of the prize. A bingo hall within city limits must then remit a fee of 5 percent of the value of all awarded bingo prizes (of more than $5) to the Texas Lottery Commission.
According to House Bill 914, counties or cities that impose a gross receipt tax on the conduct of bingo is entitled to 50 percent of the fee collected on a prize awarded at a bingo conducted in the city, so Mission would be entitled to 2.5 percent. After clarifying the legality with the city attorney, council approved the resolution (#1608).
“It allows us to opt in to this particular program,” Anna Carrillo, city secretary, said. “The Texas Lottery Commission will then give the city 2.5 percent of that particular fee, but we need to pass a resolution to advise Conway Bingo right now that we’re going to participate in this so they can start collecting that fee.”
After Sept. 1, the city will also start hearing public comments on any items on the agenda during the citizen’s participation item at the beginning of a city council meeting. Mission approved ordinance #4813, which amends an article having to do with the procedure for presentations to council.
Before this ordinance, any members of the public could speak during citizen’s participation, but only on items that were not on the meeting agenda. Now, because of the passing of House BIll 2840 (during the 86th Legislative Session), Mission is allowed to adopt “reasonable rules” regarding the public’s right to address the governmental body on any given agenda item.
With this change, citizens wishing to speak on anything, including items on the agenda, will have the opportunity to do so during the citizen’s participation by signing in and stating which item they will be speaking on. Anyone speaking will be allotted 3 minutes, regardless of the number of voting items they wish to speak on.
People wishing to speak on an item that is set for a public hearing must speak at the public hearing section of the meeting. Carillo said this change was made to keep the flow of meetings smooth.
“That way it doesn’t disrupt the process of the meeting too much,” Carrillo said. “We felt it would be better to do it all at one time, that way we wouldn’t have people coming up at all different items.”
City council went into executive session to discuss an item that would update the city’s engineering design manual. The manual has not been updated since 1988 according to Mayor Armando O’caña.
The item was on the agenda so the city could be authorized to engage in negotiations with M2 Engineering, PLLC to write the updated standards manual. According to Planning and Zoning Director Jaime Acevedo, this firm was the only one that submitted a bid that met the qualifications for this job.
Mayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza asked for it to be pulled into executive session. When they returned after discussion, she first made a motion to deny the negotiations (seconded by council member Ruben Plata) because she did not want the city to spend $28,500 on the services if the current department could figure out a way to update the manual themselves.
“I do feel that our staff, including J.P. [Terrazas] and Robert Salinas and Jaime [Acevedo] together could update this manual,” Gonzalez Garza said. “Until we get the drainage assessment completed, at that time we can do a complete manual update.”
She added that while the cost was “only $28,500,” the city’s financial situation means they should save “anywhere we can.” O’caña said that if they were able to update the manual themselves staff would have had plenty of time to complete it.
Council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa asked if the engineering department could take the manual update on themselves. City Engineer J.P. Terrazas said this would not be an easy task.
“It takes a lot of research and updates on standards,” Terrazas said. “Yes, it takes a lot of work and we’re short on staff.”
Terrazas is the only current employee working in the city’s engineering department. Gonzalez Garza then brought up the idea of taking that money and hiring an Engineer In Training to work part-time on the manual, but did not make a motion.
“If we’ve waited this long, we can certainly wait until we get the drainage assessment,” Gonzalez Garza said.
City Manager Randy Perez said that the city does have money in the budget to allocate toward this update. Plata noted that the next day the council would be meeting for a budget workshop, so after that the item can be brought up again.
Gonzalez Garza agreed, and moved to table the item until the next city council meeting. Council member Beto Vela agreed with the idea to table the item until after the budget workshop.
Ortega-Ochoa disagreed, saying they should decide on the update now.
“The city has always entered into contracts with different agencies to help us in this,” Ortega-Ochoa said. “And I think this is something that’s needed. I don’t wish to table, if we want to vote.”
O’caña agreed with her, saying he did not want the item tabled either. After a hand vote, the item was tabled 3-2.