Aransas County commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 14, voted 4-1 to approve the Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) No New Revenue Tax Rate Levy of $.049776, which includes $.036487 for maintenance and operations (M&O) and $.013289 for I&S (debt service).
Commissioner Charles Smith cast the lone dissenting vote, questioning if the ACND uses its M&O tax revenue to cover expenses other than maintenance and operations.
ACND Chairman Malcolm Dieckow said the M&O tax covers the district’s operational costs, and the ACND has other sources of revenue, as well.
“The district has chosen to keep its M&O rate down, knowing it doesn’t cover maintenance (expenses),” said Dieckow. “Our M&O (tax revenue) covers operations, but additional maintenance (expenses) are covered by other means.
“The district is not allowed to have two different funds.
“We have always had a No New Revenue rate.
“We will always use M&O funds to pay for operations.”
Commissioner Wendy Laubach asked ACND attorney Gerald Benadum, who was in attendance along with ACND Harbor Master Keith Barrett, “Everything Dieckow said is true?”
Benadum answered affirmatively.
Smith said the court has a duty to ask the questions he is raising.
“Are you saying we are misinforming you?” asked Dieckow.
“I’m just saying I’m looking at your budget and I’m looking at it in a different way,” said Smith.
Pat Rousseau, who defeated Smith in the Republican Primary and will replace him Jan. 1, said, “I’m concerned about this being brought up and being contested. Mr. Smith brought this up 10 years ago.
“I’m very concerned at this time with the dissent … one entity trying to deny another entity (to do what it needs to do).
“I ask commissioners to be thoughtful and act accordingly.”
Smith said his concern is the ACND’s possible use of M&O reserves for purposes other than maintenance and operations (i.e. – used for matching funds for grants, etc.).
County Attorney Kristen Barnebey said the Water Code, which regulates ACND operations, says M&O tax revenues cannot be used for capital (expenditures) or for matching funds.
Smith said the ACND revenues don’t exceed expenses, which means some M&O money could be used.
“That’s the only times I’ve objected,” he said.
He then said the district is depriving the public the right to vote (on capital projects, etc.).
Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills called for the vote and the ACND tax rate levy was approved 4-1.