The city of Mission approved the 2019-2020 budget during this week’s city council meeting after several workshops in the last few months.
City Manager Randy Perez presented the total budget along with the specific amounts being allocated to different funds overseen by the city. The total budget for the next fiscal year is $118,238,499.
The general fund will have $47,804,943, the utility fund at $24,630,750, the debt service fund will have $5,875,807, the special revenue fund will hold $15,374,586 and the capital projects fund will have $7,453,622. The remaining $17,098,791 is distributed in various amounts between the group health fund, the golf course fund, the capital golf course fund, the solid waste fund and the Mission Event Center budget.
Council approved the budget with a unanimous vote. Perez also presented the public hearing for the proposed property tax rate for 2019, which is set to be 0.5212 per 100 evaluation. This would raise the Mission tax rate by 3.5 cents.
During the public hearing for the rate, Maria Ester Peña Salinas, who owns several properties in the city of Mission, spoke against the increase.
“I am very upset about this tax increase,” Salinas said. “Three of you have been on the board [for] over 20 years. What happened in the past – taking money from one budget to another – is not the citizens’ fault.”
As previously reported by the Progress Times, the city of Mission received scrutiny from the Texas Water Development Board for improperly transferring over $30 million from the utility fund to the general fund over ten years (2008 to 2018). The money from the utility fund was meant to be used for water and sewer services in Mission, and because of the continued transfer the city was considered to be in noncompliance.
Since then, Mission has had to undergo changes (in a city council-approved resolution draft) to ensure that the city no longer relies on transfers from the utility fund to the general fund.
“I seem to work [more] as a retired individual, holding two jobs, to pay my taxes,” Salinas said, adding that she has had to call the police department several times to report people she believes to be participating in criminal activity near or by her properties, to no avail.
“I’m a professional and I’m trying to make ends meet.”
She told council that they should learn how to allocate spending and “conserve money.”
“There are so many items where I am upset,” Salinas said. “I know what the previous mayor was all about, we went all the way to the supreme court [referring to when former Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas sued her for making defamatory statements; she appealed to the Supreme Court of Texas and won].”
Salinas said she hates bothering the police department, but will call constantly because local establishments like the Ice House are playing loud music and “driving [them] insane” and reporting illegal and criminal activity near a large property of hers that she is trying to turn into a bed and breakfast.
“They can’t seem to do anything, but then I hear ‘oh, if we don’t get y’all’s tax money we’re going down under,’” Salinas said. “Hey I have special family, I have to take care of them. I’m upset about that.”
She also added that she has been asking for parks that meet Americans with Disabilities Act compliance standards for 15 years, but the city is only just now “excited” about the idea.
“The money was spent wrongfully,” Salinas said. “You guys are my friends – the majority of you all – and I voted for you. But I’m very disappointed. Y’all need to be more sensitive to the needs of the taxpayer.”
The city council listened to Salinas, but did not respond. She was the only resident to speak during the public hearing. The next and final public hearing before the vote will be held on Mon. Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m.
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Armando O’caña announced that on Saturday, Nov. 9 the city is planning to hold a special Veterans Day parade before the federal holiday.
“We’re inviting all veterans, there are no boundaries, they do not have to be from Mission,” O’caña said. “Any families that want to honor their loved ones who were in World War II, the European Theater or the Vietnam War or the Korean War, bring a picture, come over. The family can march.”
O’caña said the plan is for the parade to start on Conway and Business 83 and will march to Bryan Rd. and Bus. 83, in order to end in the CEED [Center for Education and Economic Development] Building parking lot, which will hold further informational events starting at 3 p.m.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Sept. 13, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.