Do we really understand Prop 1?

Dr. Malcolm Cross
Dr. Malcolm Cross

Last week a current city council member published the following statement in the local print “newspaper:”

“I voted for the EDC, known as Prop 1, and I’m 100 percent for it. In as much as it is a tax funded entity I’ve never understood the ‘free lunch’ concept as promoted. When the city is obliged to pay around half million dollars a year that has not been paid in the past, to me that is an additional burden on the taxpayer.  If I can figure this out, I’m gonna be driving a new Lincoln pickup Platinum.”

My first thought was:  “Why couldn’t he and other like-minded members of our city council have said this BEFORE the election in which the voters adopted Prop 1, after being told that its adoption would impose no “additional burden” on the taxpayer.  You’ll remember what the pro Prop 1 propaganda assured us—no new taxes, and no service cuts; in other words, no new burdens.  An admission by our elected “leaders” that passage of Prop 1 would impose “an additional burden on the taxpayer” would have added some honesty to whatever debate might have ensued over the matter.

But at least we’ll soon get to see how the city council tries to “figure this out,” as it begins examining proposals and data for the budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins October 1, 2015.  The budget-related meetings this summer, wherein citizens and staff submit budget requests which the city council then examines, are open to the public, and I strongly encourage everyone interested in the process to attend these sessions.  Should they do, they’ll be able to see how the council wrestles with the overall issues of taxes and spending.

Of course, the newest issue will be the integration of Prop 1’s mandates into the government’s structure and programs.  The soon-to-be created “tax funded entity” (the new Economic Development Corporation) will require a Director, at least according to the “newspaper.”  What salary will come with the position has not yet been announced, but when the Mayor proposed, during my last term on the council, the creation of the new position of economic development coordinator, he recommended a price tag of $100,000 for salary and other expenses related to the position (by the way, I voted against its creation, thinking the money could be better used for infrastructure).  And of course there’s the overall impact that the diversion of funds to “economic development” projects as required by Prop 1 will have on the programs from which the funds must be diverted.

Of particular interest, to me at least, will be the fate of the Pay Plan UNANIMOUSLY adopted by the city council in the spring of 2014, just before the election that year.  It mandated an overall increase in salaries and benefits by about $900,000 per year, to be phased in over a two and a half year period.  If “around half a million dollars” are to be diverted to “economic development,” what will become of the salary increases EVERYONE on the council voted for?

And let’s not forget the city council’s directive to the city administrator to reduce the budget by 5 percent, despite the Prop 1 and Pay Plan mandates.

When I gave my farewell speech to the city council a year ago I said I was relieved not to have to try to “figure out” how the city council could spend more when the voters obviously oppose tax increases to pay for the spending.  I still am.  And quite frankly, I think that if our city council can “figure out” how to spend more money on “economic development” projects, on an increasing payroll, on the natural increase in the costs of services due to inflation, and do so without raising taxes or cutting services anywhere as our Chamber of Commerce promised while the city council remained silent, then each of our elected “leaders” should receive a new Lincoln pickup Platinum.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987.  His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

4 Comments

  1. I went to the open forum they had over proposition 1 a few months ago and it made a lot of sense to me. Something has to be done to promote new business in this town. Doing nothing while every other town is promoting growth and business is not working. Running off Lowes 7 years ago was a huge mistake as there are now many many people from Stephenville shopping in Granbury. There is a domino effect in not having a Lowes or Home Depot here. When people travel over there not only do they go to Lowes but since they are all ready over there they go spend 100$ at Gbury’s HEB, spend another 40 filling up with gas at racetrack and then spend more Sville money eating dinner. This money could have stayed in Sville at our Lowes, at our grocery stores and our restaurants. We probably lost 150 jobs with lowes not to mention the new businesses that would have popped up because of Lowes. This city has lost tons of money because of closed minded decisions. Back to topic: I do understand where you are coming from when you bring up the valid point of what will have to be cut from budget to fund this. You are right, for the first couple of years this will definitely cut into the city budget, however; the purpose of this is to create new jobs, higher paying jobs, bring in more businesses etc. which results in a larger tax base which off sets funding prop 1. The long term benefits for decades to come out weigh the hardships that might be created in the short term. Another point is that most Texas cities have all ready adopted this philosophy and none of them are repealing it. From what I understood they have not had problems and are pleased with the opportunities it has created. Why would Stephenville be any different? Bottom line is something has to change!

  2. Kyle–I’m glad you at least admit that Prop 1 will have an impact on our budgeting decisions. That’s more than the Chamber of Commerce was willing to admit. But you’re dead wrong on Lowes. Nobody ran off Lowes. The city council offered Lowes handouts, but Lowes had told us that it normally didn’t open a new store in an area unless it expected to make a certain amount of profit, and its estimate of the profit it expected to make in Stephenville was LESS than what it required to open a location here. I will admit that I was in the MINORITY of city council members who voted against handouts for Lowes (the majority was pro-handout). My reason for voting against handouts was simple–to give Lowes handouts not available to its competitors would have put it at an unfair competitive advantage. I firmly believe that that the city government must NEVER discriminate IN FAVOR OF or AGAINST a retailer. To the contrary, I believe in FAIRNESS TO ALL; FAVORITISM TO NONE.

  3. Thanks for replying Dr. Cross.

    I know you were on the city council back when Lowes was kicking the tires so I know that you have way more knowledge on the subject than I do. I think the majority of the people in Sville share the perception that we didn’t do everything we could have however. Your insight would be great if you don’t mind.

    It seems to me like if Lowes didn’t feel that the profit line and buying power wasn’t strong enough here that they could have found that out through research on demographics, populations and business reports without sending representitives down here to meet with the city. It seems to an “outsider” that they were genuinely interested and profit line is something they could have obtained without all the effort. I could very well be wrong but didn’t extending Wolfe Nursery Road play into it? Lowes was going to go in where New Holland was and they were going to extend Wolfe Nursery Rd to run along side Lowes. Lowes was willing to spend X amount of money on a basic 2 lane road but Sville wanted them to pay for a 4-lane divided street to match the existing Wolfe Nursery north of Washington? If memory serves me correct Lowes wanted a longer tax abatement than what we wanted to give? After these two subjects didn’t go Lowes way they said no thanks and left. If I’m wrong, I would appreciate your insight.

    I feel a lot of people are just puzzled and frustrated why we have neither Home Depot or Lowes. Look at Brownwood for example they have Home Depot; Brown County has a population of 38,000 and median household income of $40,000. Erath county is bigger and growing faster with a population of 40,000 and an exact same median income of $40,000. When you add Tarleton and 10,000 students it’s even more puzzling why Brownwood has Home Depot and Stephenville doesn’t.

    I know Hood county is larger than Erath, 54,000 residents compared to 40,000 (not counting TSU). They have higher household income, $54,000 to $40,000 but the numbers aren’t so drastic that they should have BOTH Lowes and Home Depot while we have not a single one! The numbers just don’t make since for Granbury 2, Brownwood 1, Stephenville 0. We are doing something wrong and Stephenville is better than that and deserves better!

    Thanks again

  4. When Lowes first came before the city council it said that based on its demographic research it had concluded that whatever profit it could make with a store here was indeed less than it normally required if it were to establish a store. It nevertheless less wanted to know how much it could extract from us by way of concessions if were to relocate here anyway. My opposition to any concessions was based solely on my belief that it would be unfair to use the tax dollars extracted from current retailers to help facilitate the establishment of a rival. Lowes could still have come here if it wanted to provided either it paid its own expenses, or it got aid from other private entities such as the Chamber of Commerce or STEDCO. It can still can. But as I mentioned earlier, it told us the profit to be made her was simply not great enough to justify the cost of coming here, with or without whatever aid we were willing to offer. I think you might want to contact those on the council who did want to aid Lowes and get their take on the matter. My opposition to any aid at all put me in the minority.

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