The Kleberg County Commissioners Court is set to vote on its proposed budget and tax rate Monday, following a public hearing and meeting this past Tuesday.
The proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year is $16,013,520, an increase over last year's budget of $15,408,133.93, although the number could change between now and Monday, County Auditor Melissa Green said on Wednesday.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Roy Cantu said although the budget is balanced, he is still going to look at some other departments in the county to make sure their items are "necessary for our budget" for the fiscal year.
Pct. 1 Commissioner David Rosse said he was in support of the budget, but questioned the lack of county employee raises to the budget.
Later in the meeting, Kleberg County Clerk Stephanie Garza and Kleberg County Tax Assessor-Collector Melissa T. De La Garza both shared concerns with the commissioners that the county was going forward with a budget that did not include pay increases for hourly county employees.
"I think that it's too bad that the employees can't get a raise; I do understand both sides of the coin," Garza said. "I think that we've been up here plenty of times and said that 'this and that' needs to be done, and it doesn't get done. So if we're going to work on it, then we need to work at it and really aim for helping the employees move up (in wages), however we can get them up.
"For everything that these ladies do, and yet being underpaid — they still do it because they need jobs,
they need the benefits and they're there (working), and I understand that they can go anywhere they want," Garza added. "That shows the loyalty that they have to the county, because they are there."
"What really upsets me the most about this is that here we put in the paper that the tax increase was attributed to employees, employees' wages, employees' benefits and county facility infrastructure upgrades, which we are going to do," De La Garza said. "But we specifically said that it was going to be for employees' wages and employees' benefits. And I just feel that we didn't focus on that.
"And we keep on saying the same thing, that we're going to do it, we're going to do it and we're going to do it, and we never do," De La Garza added.
The Commissioners Court voted at the Aug. 12 meeting to propose a decreased county tax rate from last year's rate of $0.78145 per $100 valuation to $0.76950 per $100 valuation.
Tax rates set are used to determine how much property tax revenue a county, city or school district will receive to help fund general operations and debt. The rate should generate about $11,424,641 for the county in the next fiscal year, Kleberg County Tax Assessor-Collector Melissa T. De La Garza said at the Aug. 12 meeting. Because property values in the county have increased, the new rate will generate $524,641 more in revenue than in the previous fiscal year.
At the public hearing on Tuesday, Cantu said he would prefer to lower the taxes more, but a growing need in the county led to the proposed rate.
"I think with the tax rate where we set it, which is two cents below last year's, I realize it's going to bring in more income," Cantu said. "I think more additional property is being built in the county and I see it every day. And I think that's driving us to need that money to provide services. And I'm not one for trying to raise taxes at all. But I think at this point in time, that we've still got things that we need to address in this county."
Pct. 2 Commissioner Chuck Schultz said the county is "not raising taxes, we're raising the income for the county."
"Which is the only way the county can bring money to do the things that have to be done," Schultz said. "I am certainly not for higher taxes, by any means, but I do know that if we don't bring some money into the county when we can, these things will fall down between our ears.
"And again, this is really the only revenue source that we have."
The 2019 tax rate and the budget for FY 2019-20 will be voted on at the Commissioners Court regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 9 at 9:30 a.m.
Frank Cardenas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0243.
A new retail store has been proposed for Downtown Kingsville on the site of the former Kingsville Publishing Company building. A developer working on behalf of Dollar General finalized a purchase of the Kingsville Publishing Building and its adjoining lot in the 100 block of Fifth Street downtown last week.
Plans submitted to the City of Kingsville Planning and Zoning Department call for a demolition of the building, which could begin in the next few weeks. Proposed plans for a new Dollar General store submitted to the city show an entrance and parking lot facing King Street and a new building to be constructed where the vacant building exists today.
When contacted by the Kingsville Record and Bishop News Friday, Angela Petkovic, a public relations spokesperson for Dollar General said the company is in the "due
diligence" phase of planning the new store.
"A part of our due diligence phase includes securing all necessary permits to ensure that we can move forward with a project should we decide to at the conclusion of that process," Petkovic said. "Based on our current timeline, we anticipate to have a final decision on this in the coming weeks."
Kingsville currently has two Dollar General stores, located at the north and south ends of 14th Street. Petkovic said the new store, if it is constructed, would join those locations. The store would have 6 to 10 employees, she added.
The Kingsville Publishing Company building was constructed in 1969-70 and served as the home of the Kingsville Record and Bishop News until 2009. Publisher Christopher Maher said the sale of the vacant building will allow for growth downtown.
"While this is certainly the end of an era for that building, we're always pleased to see new retail and development in our downtown," Maher said.
The King Ranch Saddle Shop will host the fourth annual Fiesta de Paloma next Saturday to kick off the opening of dove hunting season in Texas with free food, live music, vendors and craft demonstrations.
"It's the south zone dove hunting opening weekend," Rose Morales, general manager of the King Ranch Saddle Shop, said. "So our hunters can go out and hunt, and then come out and enjoy the good food and good music with our local community."
Started in 2016, the event began in the parking lot of
the Saddle Shop, Morales said. She said Fiesta de Paloma soon outgrew that location and now encompasses "the entire block."
"We wanted an event where we could educate people about wildlife and conservation," she said. "We were initially going to have something inside the store, and it turned into something bigger."
The event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the 200 block of E. Kleberg Avenue in Downtown Kingsville.
"The reason that we have the event (at that time) is so our hunters can go out to a morning hunt, and then come in for lunch and go back out for an evening hunt," Morales said.
Vendors will include YETI, Chippewa Boots, Game Guard and more. Morales said a King Ranch biologist and ornithologist will be on-hand during the event as well to answer questions about wildlife and hunting.
Returning from last year's event will be the Texas Parks and Wildlife's Operation Game Thief trailer, featuring a "Wall of Shame" display with mounts obtained through illegal poaching that were confiscated through the OGT program.
"It's a really interesting exhibit," Morales said.
Live music will be provided by the band Serjio and Ropin' the Wind.
"They've opened up for Dwight Yoakum and Randy Rogers," Morales said. "It's good country and western music."
For children, activities include rock wall climbing and bow hunting.
Brisket sliders, tamales and beverages will be available during the event free of charge, Morales said.
The King Ranch Saddle Shop is located at 201 E. Kleberg Ave. in the John B. Ragland Mercantile Company Building in Downtown Kingsville.
For more information, visit KRSaddleShop.com.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at email@example.com or (361) 221-0251.
An interactive exhibit showcasing South Texas culture through the artwork of famed Chicana artist Carmen Lomas Garza will be on permanent display at Texas A&M University-Kingsville's Conner Museum beginning next Friday evening, with a VIP event featuring food, live music and a walk through with the artist herself.
"It's going to be a big, big night," Conner Museum Director Jonathan Plant said. "We're really excited to have this exhibit."
Garza was born in Kingsville and is an alumna of Texas A&I University, and her art portrays everyday lives of Mexican-American families living in South Texas based on her own memories and experiences.
"She paints scenes from her childhood, and (her paintings) encourage people to think about their own stories and traditions," Plant said.
Originally a traveling exhibit before it was refurbished and made a permanent display at the Thinkery in Austin, "En Mi Familia" is an interactive experience that allows patrons to step inside four of Garza's paintings through multi-sensory displays that depict the sights, sounds, smells and feel of Hispanic home life.
"The exhibit is very focused on themes of family and heritage," Plant said. "And it's designed as an immersive experience where
you step inside her paintings and interact with the different elements inside.
"For example, when you're in the kitchen, you can turn the stove on, you can smell the chocolate and the cumin, and you can roll up some tamales."
Plant said he had been working to bring "En Mi Familia" to the Conner Museum as a permanent exhibit since 2016.
"So it's been a long process," Plant said. "We had a grant from the Brookshire Foundation that allowed us to purchase this exhibit. This is the best place for it. This is (Garza's) hometown, and this is where it should be."
On Friday, Sept. 13, the museum will host a special "sneak preview" VIP fundraiser event that will give attendees an even more interactive experience of the new exhibit.
"Garza will be here to give a walk-through of the exhibit," Plant said.
The VIP event will feature cultural demonstrations, such as how to make pan de polvo, as well as food, drinks and live Mariachi music.
In addition, the Friends of the Conner Museum organization is selling raffe tickets for prizes that include prints of some of Garza's artwork.
"They will also be auctioning off a couple of prints on canvas," Plant said.
The "En Mi Familia" VIP Grand Opening event will be held Friday, Sept. 13, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at TAMUK's John E. Conner Museum, located at 905 W. Santa Gertrudis Ave. in Kingsville.
Tickets for the VIP event are $50 per person and can be purchased online at www.javelinagiving.org/enmifamilia. Proceeds will benefit the Conner Museum.
The exhibit will open to the general public free-of-charge beginning on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The Conner Museum is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call (361) 593-2810.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0251.
The Santa Gertrudis Independent School District Board of Trustees approved adopting the district's budget and tax rate for the 2019-20 academic year last Wednesday, with anticipated revenues exceeding expenditures for the first time since 2016-17.
During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, the SGISD school board approved budgets that included projected deficits that resulted from the loss of Additional State Aid in Tax Reduction, or ASATR, funding as the state phased out the program.
The district managed to offset the majority of those deficits, however, through state hardship grants. Last year, the district adopted a budget where expenditures exceeded revenues by about $276,000.
During a public hearing held last Wednesday, SGISD Business Director Amanda Ramirez presented the school board the district's 2019-20 proposed budget, with $8,417,680 in projected revenue and $8,207,680 in expenditures.
"As you can see, we're going to end up
with $210,000 (added to) our fund balance if all goes well for us," Ramirez said.
Ramirez said the proposed budget includes the salary increases for teachers and district aides that the board approved in early August, along with several expenditures they had discussed in June.
Proposed expenditures include about $120,000 for the purchase and operational costs for a school bus, $23,000 for an additional bus driver, $100,000 for new furniture, $165,000 for technology and classroom instruction, $30,000 for HVAC and plumbing upgrades, $25,000 for Mariachi uniforms, $10,000 for security and safety upgrades and cybersecurity training, $15,000 for additional food service staff and $5,000 for 2020 school board election expenses.
"So even purchasing all of those items, we still have $210,000 that we decided we're going to put in the fund balance," SGISD Superintendent Veronica Alfaro said to the board. "It's good to know that it's there in case something major breaks down." Ramirez said with House Bill 3, the district should have "another golden year" in 2020, and administration has been discussing "planning for the future."
"We can take a lot of this excess revenue and talk about future construction," she said. "And we can start building up to that point where we are using the excess revenue to hire those architects and those engineers that are going to help us build the future."
Alfaro said with the loss of its tuition-transfer agreement with Driscoll ISD in 2015, followed by the elimination of ASATR funding from the state, "the last four or five years have been a little tough."
"We didn't know what this year was going to bring," Alfaro said. "We didn't know what was going to happen, and Santa Gertrudis was truly blessed with HB3. It was a win-win for us."
The board approved adopting the 2019-20 budget with a 6-0 unanimous vote. Trustee Flo Falcon was not present for last week's meeting.
The school board also adopted, 6-0, the district's 2019-20 tax rate, with the combined rate set at $1.29284 per $100 valuation. This year's rate is a seven-cent decrease from last year's rate of $1.3648.
A school district's combined tax rate is comprised of separate rates for maintenance and operations (M&O), which is utilized in salaries, utility bills and general operations, and interest and sinking (I&S), which is for repayment of debt.
Santa Gertrudis ISD decreased in both the M&O and I&S rates this year. The M&O rate dropped from $1.04 to $0.97, as per the tax rate compression implemented through the 86th Texas Legislature's House Bill 3 that was passed and signed into law in June.
The I&S rate fell slightly from $0.3248 per $100 valuation to $0.32284. This year's bond payment, including interest, will be $684,412, with the total remaining debt scheduled to be paid off by Fiscal Year 2023.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at email@example.com or (361) 221-0251.