Milano imposes first-ever city property tax

Council votes in 25-cent rate, eyes city police department
Reporter Staff Writer

MILANO—For the first time since its incorporation in 1977, the City of Milano will collect a property tax from its residents, apparently to fund the city’s first police department.

In a called meeting of the Milano City Council Friday, a 25-cents per $100 valuation ad valorem tax was unanimously voted into law.

Because Milano operates under Type B General Law and has no current debt, the .25-cent rate is the most it can collect.

OPEN MEETING—Around 30 people attended the meeting held at the town’s civic center. The meeting’s posted agenda did not include a portion for public comment, but Mayor Billy Barnett did field questions prior to opening the meeting.

“No public comment is on our agenda, but we don’t want to push you aside,” Barnett told the crowd. “The council members and I are in the same boat as you. Nobody likes taxes.”

Most of those speaking said they were not completely against a tax, but were concerned about what the collected funds would be used for.

James Walker said he didn’t understand why the tax was “all of a sudden important” and asked what the money was going to go towards.

“I thought our police officer would pay for himself, this is sort of catching me by surprise. If we are going to do a tax, I would like to see a city sewer system put in. It would help out those of us who are invested here and maybe even increase our property value,” Walker said.

“I just don’t know what the tax is for. Sounds like it is something we have got to do. I would like to know if this is just for a police department.”

Collin Owen was hired in February to be the town’s first-ever police chief, but has not begun his official duties due to the city not having a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TECLOSE) license number.

Milano recently applied for a TECLOSE number from the state in order to start up its police department, but Barnett said its current status is “a work in progress.”

Barnett said Owen understands that there will be no pay until things get in order.

“We are starting with nothing here,” Barnett said. Owen is also trying to create a website for the city.

According to Barnett and city secretary Carolyn Vinton, in a 2003 vote Milano residents chose to create a police department.

Barnett never said specifically what the tax money would specifically be used for at first.

The amount to be collected is also uncertain as the Milam Appraisal District has not yet set the city’s meets and bounds.

BUDGET—Milano’s 2013 budget, adopted by the council in February, listed the police department as an expense of $65,000.

In the income section, the department was estimated to bring in $42,746.

Barnett said Milano couldn’t yet get the grants, either for the police department or a sewer system, because it had no ad valorem tax rate.

Barnett said that a new sewer system had been looked into by past mayors, but estimated costs ranged between $6 million and $8 million.

“Right now we bring in just about enough to keep the lights on,” Barnett added.

Residents are also new to the tax process, with one asking if the citizens would get a vote in the matter and another if the Milano Water Department could be taxed.

Barnett answered “ no” to both questions, noting the water department is tax-exempt.

MONEY IN—Bill Graham, a business owner in the city, but not a resident, asked Barnett if he knew the amount of money the new rate would bring in. Barnett said the council wouldn’t know until the meets and bounds were all configured and the numbers turned over to the Milam County Tax Office.

“We could give it to them and they modify it, maybe tell us we are charging too much,” Barnett said.

Milam County Tax Collector Kolette Morgan told The Reporter Tuesday that until the certified 2013 appraisal values are released, no amounts could be determined. They are not due out until July.

SO CONTRACT—Kara Clore inquired about a possible contract with the Milam County Sheriff’s Department to enforce the city ordinances and provide the same protection as a police department.

“The Sheriff’s Department will not come to a dog call or enforce any of our ordinances,” Barnett said. “They are busy within our county. We need to take care of our own problems.”

PUBLIC HEARINGS—Clore also asked why there were no official public hearings on the budget that was adopted in February, or on the new tax rate. Barnett gave no answer and officially opened the special meeting.

The motion was made by council member Carol Newman to adopt the 25-cent tax rate and seconded by Henry Dykes. Newman, Dykes and members David Hall and David Gunnels Jr. all voted in favor.

Until Friday, Milano was the only incorporated city in Milam County that did not collect a property tax.

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