Letter to the editor

Voters urged to vote against rollback


To the citizens of Gonzales:

For several years prior to 2017, the City of Gonzales had engaged in the practice of keeping the property tax as low as possible. In fact, the current rate in Gonzales is far below the state-wide average. This artificially low rate was made possible by several enabling factors, the first of which was deferring maintenance and replacement on all of the City’s assets, both physical property assets and soft assets (IT software improvements, employee training and development, and process improvements). Secondly, the City engaged in transferring the revenues from its various utility systems (water, sewer, and electric) to the General Fund to pay for expenses of all the other governmental services. Thirdly, the previous management and Council took the politically easy route but ignored sound, longer-term financial planning.

Approximately two years ago, the financial problems became acute. Cash balances dropped lower even as transfer levels increased. Some funds had negative balances. As a result, the City’s debt rating was lowered and is still at risk of being lowered again.

The transfer practice was innately unsustainable on several counts:

  • From a cash flow perspective
  • From a financial management perspective
  • From a public policy and a community trust perspective
  • From a civil law perspective. The City’s transfer practices are highly inconsistent with guidelines set forth by a Texas Supreme Court case from 1976.
  • From a tax equity perspective. The current practice can result in transferring tax burden from owners of higher value property and/or owners of rental properties to owners of lower value property and to renters. It is a common practice, for example, for the property owner to pay the taxes and the renter to pay for all the utilities.
  • From an economic development perspective. Private capital does not want to invest in a community that is not willing to invest in itself.

Approximately, two years ago, after conferring with a Texas Municipal League attorney and other knowledgeable professionals in this area, I drafted a policy, which the Council approved, to reduce the transfers to a supportable and sustainable level within five years, thus reducing the problems listed above and bringing the City into conformance with the guidelines set forth by the aforementioned court ruling. My full report to the Council on the City’s financial health is a matter of public record and is available to the public.

I have worked for the city of Gonzales twice as an interim city manager and have over 37 years of financial and general management in Texas cities. I’ve also have been professionally credentialed as a government financial officer and as a city manager.

The current Council is working to move the City to a position of financial health. A vote against the tax rollback keeps the City moving forward instead of backwards to the failed practices of the past. Voting against this rollback is actually a vote for your community.

I urge you to vote AGAINST the tax rollback.


Charles Windwehen

Native of Gonzales, residence in Gonzales County