GONZALES — Hold your taxes. They're not going up just yet, as a temporary restraining order has been filed by a cadre of citizens protesting the city's official calculations.
The order, filed with the 2nd 25th Judicial Court, lists Robert B. Scheske, Doyle Allen, Lorenzo L. Hernandez, Steve Hendershot, and Antonio Espinosa as the plaintiffs. The defendants are The City of Gonzales and Mayor Connie L. Kacir, Councilman Gary Schroeder, Councilman Tommy Schurig, Councilman Bobby O'Neal, and Councilman Dan Blakemore, in their official capacities.
The plaintiffs claim that the City of Gonzales has “failed to meet its obligations in formulating its 2018 Ad Valorem Tax Rate and 2018 Rollback Rate” and feel that they will face “irreparable injury” should the rate be adopted, ratified, or made official.
Thus, council was barred from adopting the official rate at last week's meeting until the matter is decided. A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. today (Thursday) in the district court room at the county courthouse.
At issue is the city's rollback rate, which the plaintiffs say is “fictional” and artificially high. The rate currently sits at .4639 cents, which went into calculating the tax rate the city wanted to set, which is .3050. Per the temporary restraining order, “This 'error' was made in bad faith and done to inoculate the City against the possibility of the rollback election.”
The rollback rate is set by calculations made to the city's maintenance rate and debt rate. The order states that these are incorrectly calculated, too.
Per the order: “In its tax worksheet [used to figure the city's tax rate], Gonzales claimed its 2017 M&O (maintenance and operations) rate was $0.2750 per $100 of property valuation. However, this was the entire tax rate including debt service. The actual M&O rate for the previous tax year was far lower.”
In addition, the city has misstated its debt rate, the order says, by a figure of $186,909. The true 2018 rollback rate should be $0.1862 plaintiffs say. This would be lower than the 2018 tax rate and the proposed 2018 rollback rate.
Plaintiffs also say the city did not follow the law resulting in a December 2017 meeting to reformulate the 2017 rollback rate. The rate was never published, discussed, and a lower rate had been adopted earlier that year.
Plaintiffs say that the city took the “flagrantly unauthorized action because it feared being subject to a rollback election. Instead of facing the voters, the City added debts and other costs to artificially increase the rollback rate. This was done without notice or hearing. It was also done in bad faith.
“In 2018, it is clear that the City is once again deploying fiction in order to protect itself against a rollback election. An email between the Gonzales County Tax Assessor and the City's Finance Director makes this clear.”
Requests for comment by City of Gonzales staff were not returned. When plaintiffs were contacted, they referred questions to their attorney, Martin Galardo.