By A.C. Hall
Several possible changes to compensation and reimbursement for council members were discussed at Tuesday’s White Settlement City Council meeting. Currently, council members receive $25 per council meeting. With the recent change that has them meeting just once a month instead of twice, members are now getting just $25 per month instead of $50. The City Charter caps council member compensation at $150 monthly.
Three resolutions were presented that would make changes to the compensation set-up. The first proposed extending what meetings council members can receive $25 compensation for attending. Currently, this money is paid to them only for official City of White Settlement council meetings.
According to this option, council members would also be able to receive $25 for attending other meetings as long as they’re related to City business and are attended in an official capacity. Council member Elzie Clements questioned what defines an official capacity. It was mentioned that this will be discussed at an upcoming meeting.
“This is not an increase in any kind of compensation, it just clarifies and clears up the verbage of the City Charter, which allows a maximum of $150, always has, still does, that hasn’t changed,” Council member Danny Anderson said. “Since we’ve reduced our meetings in the charter now, this compensates for the other meetings.”
One thing Anderson mentioned was that when the number of official meetings was changed in the charter election, the amount allowed to be paid to council members per meeting probably should have been changed as well.
A motion was made to pass this resolution allowing for $25 compensation to be paid for meetings outside of council meetings. That motion passed unanimously. Due to wording in the charter, this will not increase compensation for the Mayor.
Two other resolutions went without action as council continued discussing changes to compensation and reimbursement. These two resolutions dealt with either a flat rate monthly car allowance or allowing council members to be reimbursed for mileage they drive on official city business.
Anderson spoke about how it used to be done, with council members using a city vehicle to save on gas costs. After some discussion, Anderson suggested the idea of a car allowance might need to be discussed in a workshop. Council member Gene Hatcher agreed, and no action was taken on the car allowance or mileage reimbursement issues.
Council continues involvement in home investment partnership
One agenda item had council considering whether or not they will continue to be involved in the Tarrant County Home Investments Partnership program. White Settlement has been involved since 2007 in this project that allows low income homes to apply for improvement funds from Tarrant County. City Manager Linda Ryan said that since that time there have been ten homes in White Settlement that have taken advantage of the program, but it hasn’t been used in some time.
“There has not been any participation in White Settlement in the last two years,” Ryan said.
In addition to the lack of participation, Ryan said that there is a waiting list for anyone who wants to take part in the program.
“We have no say so on who gets the grants; they just go before the county and get put on the waiting list,” Ryan said.
There is a total of $390,000 available from Tarrant County for the program. That amount gets spread across all cities in Tarrant County, including Fort Worth. In order to continue to be involved in the program, the City would need to pledge money for continued participation. Last year $10,000 was budgeted for it, and this year there was $5,000, but none of that money has been spent with no one in White Settlement using the program.
Anderson said that one of the people who used the program in the past was his mother, and he praised the quality of the work that was done on her home.
The high number of seniors in the city that could benefit from the program was discussed, with Mayor Burns and Council Member Steve Ott mentioning that maybe if the program’s existence was advertised, more citizens would use it.
A motion passed unanimously to set aside $15,000 for continued participation in the program, which would cover the City’s required thirty percent matching portion.
Citizen Magistrate changes made
Changes were made to the start and end dates for the citizen magistrate position. Last month, the council placed Gunnar Rasmussen in the position, but due to the resolution wording, he wouldn’t start serving in that position until July.
Ott introduced a new resolution that would supersede the old one and change the date served by citizen magistrates to January 1 to the end of the year. Ott stated that the old dates coincided with the old election schedule when council elections were held in May, and these new dates better align with the new November elections.
Currently, the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem act in a capacity to help the judge. While they are not allowed to preside over court or hear contested cases, they may conduct arraignments, accept pleas, sign judgments and perform other tasks in the absence of the judge. A city magistrate can perform these same duties if the judge, Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem are not available.
The new resolution to change the dates passed unanimously. This resolution superseded the old one, meaning that Rasmussen needed to be reappointed to the city magistrate position.
Council member Gene Hatcher questioned the need for a citizen magistrate, saying he didn’t feel it was necessary to have one. The motion to appoint Rasmussen to the position passed 3 to 1, with Hatcher voting against.
Citizen Darlene Underwood addressed the council with concerns over recent news that sales tax income has been declining in the city. Underwood referenced a recent Grizzly Detail article on the matter as she asked what limitations on expenditures were going to be made to deal with the slowdown in sales tax.
Underwood also stated that she felt the city should have seen this coming, while questioning the $3 million that is being spent on Central Park while economic issues persist. She asked that the city look into the sales tax slowdown and that they also examine the budgets.
Be sure to pick up next week’s Grizzly Detail for the second half of our coverage of this meeting.