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Palmview Finance Director Rachel Chapa abruptly resigned last month.
The City Council accepted her resignation Monday, when the meeting agenda included “Discussion and Possible Action in regard to the Finance Director position.”
“She was a good person,” said Mayor Rick Villarreal. “She always tried to do what was good and in the best interest of the city. At least as far as I could see.”
Asked why she resigned, Chapa declined to comment.
The Progress Times submitted a public information request for Chapa’s resignation letter and other personnel records on Sept. 25.
Texas law requires Palmview to release the documents “as soon as possible under the circumstances” but allows the city a maximum of 10 business days to respond. By Wednesday, the Progress Times print deadline, the city hadn’t released any records.
Chapa accepted the job after the November 2016 election, when Joel Garcia, Linda Sarabia and Javier Ramirez joined the City Council. They asked Chapa and then-Interim City Manager Leo Olivares to investigate the prior administration.
“When I came onboard, it was a whirlwind of things that needed to be done,” Chapa said during an April 2018 interview.
Chapa determined the police department improperly spent federal asset forfeiture money. Palmview self-reported the problem, which prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to suspend the city from the program.
Her review also uncovered budget deficits, what the City Council deemed poor financial planning and questionable spending by former city employees.
Members of the prior administration believed Chapa’s criticism wasn’t fair and lacked context.
The City Council, however, supported Chapa and frequently cited her analysis, pinning Palmview’s financial problems on the prior administration.
Sarabia and Garcia, who supported Chapa’s investigations, declined to comment on her resignation.
“We can’t say anything,” Garcia said. “Because it’s a personnel matter.”
Palmview’s financial problems aren’t limited to prior administrations.
The City Council approved a budget amendment Monday that showed a major revenue shortfall.
When the City Council adopted the 2018-2019 budget, administrators predicted about $6.7 million in revenue from property tax, sales tax and other sources. The budget amendment reduced the anticipated revenue to nearly $6 million.
Palmview originally projected the city would collect about $233,000 in property tax penalties and interest.
The city adjusted that number to just $83,000. Palmview also overestimated revenue from current-year property taxes and delinquent property taxes.
Taken together, the city’s tax revenue from all sources fell nearly 7 percent short of the original budget.
Estimating revenue isn’t easy. Cities typically make conservative revenue projections after reviewing historical information and economic data.
Palmview projected the city would collect $350,000 from police department fines, which roughly matched the 2017-2018 budget. On Monday, though, the city adjusted that projection to just $230,000.
As a result of the nearly $717,000 shortfall, Palmview had a $106,000 budget deficit, according to the budget amendment.
Villarreal, the mayor, said members of the City Council had discussed the revenue projections but didn’t think they played a significant role, if any, in Chapa’s resignation.
“And I wish her the best,” Villarreal said.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Oct. 4, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.