As of presstime this week, no petition has been presented to the Village of Salado calling for a disannexation election.
According to Mayor Skip Blancett, the deadline to receive the petition in order to call for the May 6 election passed Feb. 6.
In a Feb. 7 email responding to a request for the deadlines to file a petition for the May 6 election, Mayor Blancett told Salado Village Voice, “According to our lawyer yesterday (Feb. 6) was the last day to turn in petition.”
Aldermen at their Feb. 2 meeting called for the May 6 election for three places on the Board of Aldermen and to hold joint elections along with the Salado Independent School District and the Salado Public Library District.
While organizers may have again missed the deadline to call for an election, Salado Village Voice continues to seek answers to other issues surrounding the petition and its boundaries proposed for disannexation.
Last week, Salado Village Voice contacted Linda Sjogren, attorney for the Village of Salado, seeking answers to three questions concerning the petition’s potential new boundaries.
Sjogren replied via email to the enquiry: “In accordance with the Texas State Bar rules of ethics as well as our firm’s policies, I can only provide legal analysis and opinions regarding a matter concerning my clients to the proper officials of the client organization. So unfortunately I cannot answer your questions. I would direct you to the Village Mayor, Interim Administrator or Secretary for any comments on this topic if/when they have any to make.”
The following questions were sent to interim city manager David Miller and Mayor Skip Blancett via email.
1. Most of the area outlined in the Disannexation Petition is actually part of the original incorporation of the Village of Salado in 2000. If an original part of a municipality can seek disannexation through petition and election.
2. The only area outlined in the Disannexation Petition that has been annexed into Salado is part of the residential area of Mill Creek, which annexed voluntarily into Salado. Is it legal for an area that voluntarily annexes to then disannex?
A third question that Salado Village Voice asked of the city manager was if the Village could reject a petition that would reduce the size of the Village to less than a square mile or reduce the diameter of the city to less than a mile across the center.
In an email to the Mayor and city administrator that was forwarded to Salado Village Voice, Sjogren said that the area being part of the original incorporation has no effect on the disannexation petition. The “statute provides that if fifty qualified voters ‘of an area located in a general-law municipality sign and present a petition to the mayor . . . that the area be declared no longer part of the municipality, the mayor shall order an election on the question in the municipality.’ The statute applies to any area in the municipality, regardless of when it became part of the city,” according to the Sjogren email.
About the area that voluntarily annexed into Salado now seeking disannexation, Sjogren wrote in the email that “ There is a waiting period of one year after an area is annexed before the qualified voters of the annexed area may file a petition for disannexation due to failure of the municipality to provide services, but no waiting period for a petition/election for disannexation under Section 43.143 of the LGC (Local Government Code).”
Finally, in answer to Salado Village Voice enquiries about the implications of the resulting land size and/or diameter, Sjogren wrote that, “This question does not have an effect on the calling of the election, but if the measure were to pass, the area cannot be discontinued as part of the Village (and the election results would be void) if the resulating remaining area of the Village does not equal either one square mile total or one mile in diameter around the center of the original municipal boundaries.”
Sjogren further told the mayor and city administrator via email that, “If a petition is received, a surveyor needs to look at the metes and bounds description included and determine whether the remaining area of the Village will equal one of those two measurements so you will have the factual information available. It is only required that the remaining area of the Village equal one of the two measurements, not both.”
Last week, Salado Village Voice contacted Central Texas Council of Governments executive director Jim Reed to enquire about the proposed boundaries of disannexation.
Reed told Salado Village Voice that the CTCOG mapping department would work on determining if the new boundaries would be in conflict with state law (either making the size of the remaining village less than one square mile or the diameter of the Village less than a mile wide).
When the petition was submitted last fall, Salado Village Voice contacted the Bell County Tax Appraisal District for information about the impact on taxes for those properties that might be disannexed from the Village.
According to state law, “If the area withdraws from a municipality as provided by this section and if, at the time of the withdrawal, the municipality owes any debts, by bond or otherwise, the area is not released from its pro rata share of that indebtedness. The governing body shall continue to levy a property tax each year on the property in the area at the same rate that is levied on other property in the municipality until the taxes collected from the area equal its pro rata share of the indebtedness. Those taxes may be charged only with the cost of levying and collecting the taxes, and the taxes shall be applied exclusively to the payment of the pro rata share of the indebtedness. This subsection does not prevent the inhabitants of the area from paying in full at any time their pro rata share of the indebtedness.”
Marvin Hahn, chief appraiser for Bell County Tax Appraisal District, told Salado Village Voice that “we have consulted with our attorney and are of the opinion that all exemptions and tax freezes would remain in place for as long as the Village of Salado continues to collect the pro rata share of the existing village debt.”
While the potential disannexation of these residential areas will not have a dramatic effect on the debt service tax rate of the Village of Salado, the impact on the maintenance and operation tax and budget will be substantial.According to the 2016 certified values, the total freeze adjusted taxable value for the Village of Salado was $168,130,780.
The M&O tax rate is $0.1999 per $100 valuation. The debt service tax rate is $0.3420 per $100 valuation for a total tax rate of $0.5419 per $100 valuation.