Merging of development districts on May 8 ballot

Somewhat confusing vote items will nix sales tax for hospital, steer toward development
By KEN ESTEN COOKE Reporter Publisher

City council members on Monday okayed an initiative for the May 8 ballot that will merge the current Municipal Development District (MDD) boundaries and the 1994 city limit boundaries, creating one solid district that uses an existing halfcent sales tax for development.

“This will allow us to simplify things,” said Mark Jackson, MDD chairman. “The way the development district was formed doesn’t allow us to use funds for any projects in the old city limits — only the areas annexed since 1994 and the city’s extra territorial jurisdiction (the area extending one mile beyond the city limits).”

Jackson stressed, “This does not create any type of new tax, just moves what is already being collected by the hospital district to development groups.”

The ballot will consist of three isses—abolition of the current sales tax collected by the hospital district, creation of a new Municipal Development District that encompasses the entire town, and a third issue leaving in place the old MDD if voters fail to ratify the new district.

New idea, but confusing

Municipal Development Districts are relatively new to the state and the city pushed for one last May to be able to use a half-cent sales tax collected in annexed areas and its ETJ for development purposes. That initiative passed by a 46-41 vote.

But it left the city with an awkward “hole” in its development efforts. Currently, the Rockdale Development Board, which is unfunded, works on projects in the 1994 city limits. The MDD handles all other projects and will begin collecting its first half-cent from sales that occur in its territory.

Confusing? Yes, but a new arrangement would simplify the situation, creating one contiguous development zone in which a half-cent sales tax is collected.

Also on that ballot will be an initiative that asks voters to let the hospital district surrender its half-cent sales tax it has collected since 1994.

Voters will be asked to take back the hospital district’s half cent tax — an initiative supported by the hospital district board of directors — and steer it toward development efforts.

The ballot will be worded so that the MDD will remain intact, if voters turn down the effort to consolidate the districts, Knauf said.

A “yes” vote on all three would accomplish the goal for the MDD.

Real estate deal Council members gave City Manager Kelvin Knauf and a local real estate developer 60 days to come up with a resolution to a subdivision dispute.

The city claims that Alan Noack subdivided land without regard to the city’s ordinances and has threatened litigation. Noack claims the former city manager, T. Flemming, okayed his plan.

But Knauf said the city manager doesn’t have the authority to do that. Knauf added that land development projects in the city’s ETJ would have to come under the subdivision ordinances, which establish rights-of-ways for utilities, easements for streets, and more.

Four plots of land were sold before the conflict was noted.

“These plots were offered to people that have homes on Skyles Street,” Noack said Monday. “It’s land that backs up to theirs and they wanted it so no one would build. It’s a privacy issue.”

Noack said he hopes the issue can be resolved quickly.

On Monday, the council also:

• Okayed a second reading to prohibit skateboarding after dark at the skate park on Mill and Pine Streets.

• Updated building codes to reflect new international updates. (No new codes were adopted.)

• Changed wording in the council’s “policies and procedures” which avoids a contradiction.

• Declared March as “Fitness Month” in Rockdale.

• Appointed election judge as Karen Todd, with Linda Schraeder as alternate. Election clerks will be Marie Gest, Betty Backhaus and Julia Cardona.

• Noted that property tax remittances were picking up and more budget cuts may be able to be avoided.

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2010-03-11 digital edition

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