MIDLOTHIAN — The use of athletic fields, city budget and continued discussions on the new tax rate highlighted the latest session of the Midlothian City Council.
The board convened Tuesday, Sept. 5 for the second of two required public hearings on the 2017-18 tax rate and then to host a workshop discussing budget changes, park fees, and right-of-way mowing on newly annexed land.
The tax discussion consisted of a reading by Midlothian Director of Finance Ann Honza, who stated, “This is the second of required public hearings for the proposed effective tax rate or $0.708244. This is a public hearing only. No action can be taken by the council tonight."
The formal adoption of the tax rate will be during the Sept. 12 meeting.
The workshop session began with Midlothian City Manager Chris Dick describing changes to the general, utility and special revenues funds.
Midlothain ISD initially requested four School Resource Officers (SRO) but has since requested five, Dick explained.
“This will increase the Emergency Service District (ESD) by $50,000 for a total budget of $920,000," he explained.
Three additional firefighters and a $13,000 difference in the budgeted amount for Red Oak emergency dispatch services were also added to the ESD budget.
“There were no changes in the utility fund budget except for line-item changes,” Dick said.
Assistant City Manager Kristine Day then began a discussion of youth athletic park use, centered around fees charged for group use. The discussion began with the difference in fees charged for use by Midlothian residents and non-residents.
Day initially proposed a $5 fee for resident and $15 for non-residents.
Councilman Mike Rogers then brought up select team use.
“Teams from out of the city will see we have a great field and will want to come up and use it,” he said.
Day agreed, stating “At some point, we want to serve the select player groups also."
Day explained the various sports associations have to request the use and provide a schedule for practices and games with the City of Midlothian, which owns and maintains the fields. She also noted about 70 percent of the complex's use is by Midlothian residents.
At the suggestion of Midlothian Mayor Bill Houston, the council agreed to set the fees at $5 for resident groups and $20 for non-resident groups. The new fee schedule will begin in the spring of 2018.
Right-of-way mowing became a highly-discussed subject, as many councilmembers offered several differing opinions on who should be responsible — city or residents — for mowing grass in existing and newly annexed portions of the city.
"In some areas maintenance is not being done. Mowing is mainly done on a complaint basis," said Dick while showing several photos to the council.
Rogers noted he was concerned about agriculture-zone properties that are incorporated into the city limits.
“Where do the property owners’ land stop and the city’s start," he asked. "Is it at the pavement or the centerline of the street.”
Rogers gave an example of a resident in her 80s who cannot mow the ditch in front of her property and explained that Ellis County previously maintained the area.
Referencing the mowing ordinance, “Every other ordinance on the books applies to her,” Dick said
Houston later commented on the city’s mowing responsibilities, stating "If it our property we should mow it.”
“If we start mowing mile after mile of roadway right-of-way, we drastically need to revise our budget,” Dick said.
Day advised the council, ”If you are going to get into a mowing program, you need to look at very specific criteria.”
Summing up the discussion, Houston said “We have to use some common sense to this. We must be realistic about the property owner. We cannot make one rule that applies to all.”