City Charter Review Ad Hoc Committee Presents Final Report

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics

     The City Charter Review Ad Hoc Committee, appointed in September 2015,  presented its final report to the Corpus Christi City Council on June 14, 2016, at the regular Council meeting.  Members of the committee include Chairman John Bell, Armando Chapa, Larry Elizondo, Sr., Butch Escobedo, Mayor Emeritus Henry Garrett, Brent Hess, Oscar Martinez, Pastor Richard Milby, and Jay Reining.  The committee met eight times to consider necessary updates to the City Charter.  Eleven propositions are recommended for approval by the voters at the November 8, 2016, election.  Proposition 1 addresses an additional funding option for residential street reconstruction. Proposition 2 would set new maximum limits for the annual compensation of the Mayor and City Council members which would not go into effect until 2022. Propositions 3 through 11 bring the Charter up to date and in conformity with current State law.  Following is the actual language of each proposition along with a brief summary taken completely or in part from the report:

LIST OF PROPOSITIONS

Proposition 1. Establishing a Dedicated Fund To Be Used Solely for Residential Street Reconstruction and Authorizing the City Council To Levy, Assess And Collect A Property Tax Not To Exceed Six Cents ($0.06) Per One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) Of Assessed Value For The Purpose Of Residential Street Reconstruction, Said Taxes To Be Maintained In This Dedicated Fund And Used Solely For The Purpose Of Residential Street Reconstruction, And Said Taxes to Be Gradually Implemented at a Rate of Not More Than Two Cents ($0.02) Per One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) Per Year.

This proposition creates a new, dedicated property tax that would generate funds to be placed in a restricted fund and used solely for residential street reconstruction.  The dedicated fund is different from the existing special fund for residential and local street reconstruction since the restriction would be in the City Charter and not subject to change by future city councils. The new property tax established would be outside the 68-cent tax cap, since it will be a special voter-approved tax and designed not to impact the City’s ability to address its maintenance and operations needs and its general bond rating. Due to State law limitations, the City Council would not be able to levy the full tax immediately, but it would have to be implemented gradually over a period of years.

The proposed tax rate maximum of six cents would raise approximately $10.2 million annually in additional funding, and will restrict the funding to residential street reconstruction costs only. With the two-cents per year cap on annual increases, the increased burden on a property with a $100,000 taxable value would be $20.00 per year, with the protection of an overall cap of $60.00 in increased property taxes on a property with a $100,000 taxable value.

Proposition 2. Providing That The Mayor Pro Tem Shall Be The Council Member Elected At Large Who Received The Highest Number Of Votes.

Currently, the mayor pro tem is selected by the City Council on a rotating basis with each Council member serving as mayor pro tem at some point during the two-year term of office. In the event of the disability of the mayor, under Article II, Section 5, the mayor pro tem serves as mayor. A separate provision in Article II, Section 12, specifies that in the event of a vacancy in the office of mayor, the successor will not be the mayor pro tem but the Council member elected at large who received the highest number of votes.

Proposition 3. Adjusting Total Annual Compensation For The Mayor To $24,000 And Total Annual Compensation For Each Council Member To $18,000, and Eliminating All Other Forms of Compensation, To Be Effective With The City Council Elected In 2022.

Currently the council members receive a stipend of $6,000 per year with a car allowance of $4,200 per year, and the mayor receives $9,000 per year with a car allowance of $5,400 per year. The Committee believes the low stipend serves as a limit as to who can afford to serve on the City Council. In order to be able to serve on the City Council without undue hardship, persons need to be independently wealthy, retired, or have a job that affords them the flexibility to spend a full day or more away from work each week without being penalized with a salary reduction.  The Committee voted to set an overall compensation limit of $18,000 per year for Council members and $24,000 per year for the mayor.  For Council members, the change would result in a $7,800 increase in compensation, with the mayor receiving a $9,600 increase.

Note:  Some Council members participate in the City’s health insurance program. The monthly premium subsidy ranges from $6,000 to $12,000 per year depending upon the type of coverage selected.  For those participating in the City’s health insurance program, the change may not result in any significant increase or could even be a reduction in benefits.

Proposition 4. Allowing For Procurement Of Contracts For Independent Auditor With Terms Up To Five Years.

Currently, the City Charter limits the procurement of outside auditing contracts to no more than three years. The language also includes the statement “without requiring competitive bids” which is not relevant according to state law that requires such contracts to be based on qualifications. The City’s internal auditor and financial services staff recommend authorizing up to five-year contracts for the outside auditor in order to match what they consider to be the optimum cycle for procurement of outside auditing services.

Proposition 5. Providing For The Appointment Of Two Alternate Members To The Civil Service Board.

The Civil Service Board is comprised of three members appointed by the City Council to consider appeals from City employees of terminations and other major disciplinary actions. Although the Board does not meet frequently, it is critical to have three members present in order to consider the appeal. Scheduling a hearing for the three volunteer citizens serving on the Board can be a difficult task due to work schedules and the need to conduct the hearings during the regular work day and within a designated time frame.  The appointment of two alternative members to the Civil Service Board would allow the alternates to substitute for any of the three members and allow better flexibility in scheduling the required hearings. Having alternates also helps in the event that any board member cannot sit on a case due to a conflict. It is important always to have a panel of three members hearing any appeal in order to assure that there will be no tie votes in resolving cases.

Proposition 6. Eliminating The Prohibition On City Employees Filing For Nomination Or Election To Municipal Public Office To Comply With Texas Local Government Code Section 150.041.

The Charter historically has allowed City employees to file as candidates for other public offices but has prohibited any City employee from filing as a candidate for the City Council and required termination of employment in such an event. The Texas Local Government Code has been amended specifically to allow municipal employees to run for city council positions, so this provision of the City Charter is no longer enforceable.

Proposition 7. Providing Authority To Issue Bonds In Accordance With The Laws Of The State Of Texas.

The City Charter originally was the source of its authority to borrow funds through the issuance of bonds, but the State has standardized procedures applicable to municipalities in borrowing funds through various provisions in the Texas Local Government Code and Texas Government Code. Additionally, several other statutory provisions authorize the issuance of special revenue bonds for different purposes.  This amendment would eliminate the detailed specifications concerning the issuance of bonds by the City and simply state that the City may issue bonds in the manner provided by the laws of the State of Texas.

Proposition 8. Clarifying The Approval Process For Leases, Updating The Statutory Reference, And Eliminating the Waiting Periods for Leases and Lease Amendments Which Do Not Exceed 5 Years.

Leases of the different public properties of the City are subject to the restrictions contained in Article IX of the City Charter and are generally divided between leases up to five years and leases longer than five years. A referendum procedure applies to certain leases longer than five years on the Bayfront. The proposed amendment clarifies some of the confusing language that has been created with different amendments over the years, and it updates the statutory reference for the referendum provision applicable to certain long-term leases on the Bayfront. It also simplifies the process for approving a simple amendment to a long-term lease that does not involve lengthening or expanding the scope of the lease.

Proposition 9. Repealing An Unnecessary Provision Regarding Untreated Water Supply Contracts.

The City historically has been the primary provider of municipal water supplies in this region, and a provision was added to the Charter in 1968 giving the City specific authority to make contracts for the sale of untreated water for definite periods of time without the need for an election. Under existing State law, the City has sufficient authority to enter into contracts for the sale of both treated water and untreated water without the need for this specific Charter authorization. Elimination of this provision would not change any of the City’s existing rights or obligations.

Proposition 10. Updating Legal References In The General Powers Section And Clarify The General Powers.

The “General Powers” provisions of the Charter in Article X include a variety of general authorizations for the City applicable to municipal corporations generally. Several of the provisions require updating for the statutory references to State law to be accurate, and general provisions relating to taxes and assessments need to be updated to include fees charged by the City.

Proposition 11. Clarifying The Procedures Regarding Purchases And Contracts in Conformity with State Law.

Historically, cities contracted for goods and services based on a public bidding process established in the city’s charter, but State laws have standardized the procurement systems and provided various options for requests for proposals, design-build contracts and other types of competitive procurements. The proposed amendment would eliminate language covered by State law in order to avoid confusion.

Note:  Amending the City Charter of home-rule municipalities falls under  LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, TITLE 2. ORGANIZATION OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT,  SUBTITLE A. TYPES OF MUNICIPALITIES,  CHAPTER 9. HOME-RULE MUNICIPALITY of the CONSTITUTION of the STATE of TEXAS:

Sec. 9.004. CHARTER AMENDMENTS. (a) The governing body of a municipality on its own motion may submit a proposed charter amendment to the municipality’s qualified voters for their approval at an election. The governing body shall submit a proposed charter amendment to the voters for their approval at an election if the submission is supported by a petition signed by a number of qualified voters of the municipality equal to at least five percent of the number of qualified voters of the municipality or 20,000, whichever number is the smaller.

(b) The ordinance ordering the election shall provide for the election to be held on the first authorized uniform election date prescribed by the Election Code or on the earlier of the date of the next municipal general election or presidential general election. The election date must allow sufficient time to comply with other requirements of law and must occur on or after the 30th day after the date the ordinance is adopted.

(c) Notice of the election shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation published in the municipality. The notice must:

(1) include a substantial copy of the proposed amendment;

(2) include an estimate of the anticipated fiscal impact to the municipality if the proposed amendment is approved at the election; and

(3) be published on the same day in each of two successive weeks, with the first publication occurring before the 14th day before the date of the election.

(d) An amendment may not contain more than one subject.

(e) The ballot shall be prepared so that a voter may approve or disapprove any one or more amendments without having to approve or disapprove all of the amendments.

(f) The requirement imposed by Subsection (c)(2) does not waive governmental immunity for any purpose and a person may not seek injunctive relief or any other judicial remedy to enforce the estimate of the anticipated fiscal impact on the municipality.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 149, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1219, Sec. 5, eff. June 20, 1997; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1349, Sec. 76, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 414 (S.B. 1086), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2007.

Sec. 9.005. ADOPTION OF CHARTER OR AMENDMENT. (a) A proposed charter for a municipality or a proposed amendment to a municipality’s charter is adopted if it is approved by a majority of the qualified voters of the municipality who vote at an election held for that purpose.

(b) A charter or an amendment does not take effect until the governing body of the municipality enters an order in the records of the municipality declaring that the charter or amendment is adopted.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 149, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Sec. 9.006. CONCURRENT ELECTIONS. This chapter does not prevent the voters at an election to adopt a charter or an amendment to a charter from electing at the same election persons to hold office under the charter or amendment.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 149, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Sec. 9.007. CERTIFICATION OF CHARTER OR AMENDMENT. (a) As soon as practicable after a municipality adopts a charter or charter amendment, the mayor or chief executive officer of the municipality shall certify to the secretary of state an authenticated copy of the charter or amendment under the municipality’s seal showing the approval by the voters of the municipality.

(b) The secretary of state shall file and record the certification in his office in a book kept for that purpose.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 149, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Sec. 9.008. REGISTRATION OF CHARTER OR AMENDMENT; EFFECT. (a) The secretary or other officer of a municipality performing functions similar to those of a secretary shall record in the secretary’s or other officer’s office a charter or charter amendment adopted by the voters of the municipality. If a charter or amendment is not recorded on microfilm, as may be permitted under another law, it shall be recorded in a book kept for that purpose.

(b) Recorded charters or amendments are public acts. Courts shall take judicial notice of them, and no proof is required of their provisions.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 149, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.
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