By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Property owners in the City of Dayton may get a little relief on their property taxes next year. The City of Dayton is proposing a drop in the tax rate from $0.6821 to $0.6645 per $100 of assessed property.
Based on the new proposed tax rate, a property valued at $200,000 would see a reduction in city taxes from $1,364.20 to $1,329.00, not including homestead exemptions and other taxes assessed by schools and special districts. However, with valuations on the rise, property owners may not see a decrease despite the City’s efforts to pass on savings to residents.
As required by law, the City must hold two public hearings before the tax rate is finalized. The dates of the hearings are Sept. 9 and 16.
The tax rate was presented by Rudy Zepeda, finance director for the City of Dayton, at the Aug. 19 meeting of Dayton City Council.
Council also heard from Andrew Friedman with SAMCO Capital Markets about the City’s credit rating, which is now a “very strong AA credit rating,” which Friedman said is just two notches below the highest possibly rating.
As a result, the City now qualifies for some of the lowest-possible interest rates for certificates of obligation, money that is borrowed for infrastructure and capital improvements.
“I am proud to saw we received five bids and the low bid was 2.19 percent. This is the cheapest money that the City of Dayton has ever borrowed. In 2018, those certificates had a rate of 3.16 percent. In 2015, it was 2.91 percent. We went into this process thinking we would lock in interest rates at about 3 percent,” said Friedman, adding that interest rates have fallen in the last couple of weeks due to a fear of recession.
“In the near term, we are able to lock in some cheap money,” he said.
Dayton Police Chief Rob Vine, who is also the deputy city manager, presented the findings of Project Listen, a survey of City of Dayton employees intended to identify and address strengths and weaknesses of departments, and look for solutions.
Every employee was asked to take part in an anonymous online survey, after which they met individually with Project Listen facilitators. The results showed that the majority of City of Dayton employees, 59 percent, have been with the City for under two years. Ninety-one percent said they would recommend the City as an employer to a family member or a friend and 86.5 percent said they see themselves working for the City in two years.
The survey asked the employees to identify the factors that would make them leave their employment with the City. The results showed that pay was the biggest factor, followed by a lack of job satisfaction and quality of supervisors.
The employees were asked to rate the performance of Dayton City Manager Theo Melancon. Roughly 33 percent of employees scored him at 9 out of 10 possible points. He also received a rating of 8 from 28 percent of employees and a rating of 10 from another 28 percent.
According to Vine, another finding was that many employees believe the wages do not reflect the cost of living.
“One of the employees, a single parent, said they just wanted to make $30,000 a year. Another said they had to get a roommate to afford an apartment in Dayton,” he said.
Vine said employees also expressed an interest in an Employee of the Month program, health and wellness programs, discounted gym memberships and community outreach programs.
CHURCH STREET CLOSING
Council voted at the meeting to close Church Street between US 90 and Cook Street, between the old police station and city hall. Public safety and the creation of a town square were two reasons for the closure.
“Another thing that has come to my attention and spurred the need to close Church Street is a lot of people are trying to dart across Highway 90 from the north side of Church Street going south,” Melancon said. “A lot of people walk across Church Street regularly and a lot of times [drivers] are punching it to get across US 90. They have to slam on their brakes to try to not hit people.”
Melancon said he has counted 47 ways for vehicles to access US 90 between Colbert and SH 146 South. The number of access points causes traffic delays and the risk of accidents.
“People slow down to turn or people pull out in front of them. For Highway 90, in that stretch, the collision rate is four times higher than the state average. What we are trying to do is limit the amount of access crossing 90. Wrecks slow down traffic,” he said.
As this section of Church Street is low traffic, the decision to close it was an easy one, according to Melancon.
“Pedestrian safety would be enhanced quite a bit by closing this side of Church Street,” said Melancon, adding that the creation of a town center could be helpful in coordinating and planning future events.
DAYTON NAMED OLD SPANISH TRAIL CITY
The City of Dayton is now officially recognized as a city on the Old Spanish Trail, a distinction that Mayor Caroline Wadzeck and her husband, Larry, helped achieve.
“The Old Spanish Trail followed a highway project that began in 1915 when automobiles were becoming all the rage. That was going to become the future of this country. That was becoming pretty evident,” Wadzeck explained to council.
The Old Spanish Trail highway was envisioned to link the east and west coasts across the southern United States. The 2,750-mile auto trail began in St. Augustine, Fla., crossing eight states on its path to San Diego, Calif. Along the way, the path traveled through Dayton, Texas, and included portions of Interstate 10.
A centennial celebration is now being planned in the official OST cities.
“To get designated as an official OST city, you have to do one of three things – host a conference, be a presenter at the conference or host an exhibit at a conference. My husband and I went to the conference on July 26 in Houston and we presented a display of all things Dayton. It was very well received,” Wadzeck said.
As an official OST city, the City of Dayton is hosting an antique car show on Nov. 9, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Dayton Community Center, 801 S. Cleveland St.
Wadzeck is hoping to have at least 75 antique car owners participating. The plan is for the cars to line up at the community center, then drive as a motorcade to the downtown square in Liberty and return to the community center for the car show.
Food trucks will be set up in the parking lot to make it a fun day for residents, she added.
PD GETS TICKET-WRITING UPGRADE
Sgt. Eric Ibarra and Sgt. Kris Seibert demonstrated new ticket writers to council at the meeting. The new devices can scan bar codes on motor vehicle registrations and Texas driver’s licenses to make ticket-writing quicker and more error-free.
“This will allow us to quickly write those citations and eliminate writer error from handwritten citations and data entry errors. They can also record traffic stops,” Ibarra explained. “Once we get back to the station, we can upload our data to the court systems, and it goes from there.”
Once the ticket is logged and synchronized with the police department’s record management system, the information is sent directly to the court and a court date is set.
“All the old workflows that would have taken a week for the ticket to find its way to the municipal court, that is all going away. It will be relatively quick now,” Melancon added.
AWARDS ALL AROUND
The City of Dayton recently was named the 2019 Sustainable City award by the Texas Masonry Council. Melancon was happy to show Council the award that the City earned for its Uniform Development Code (UDC), a resource for developers planning projects in Dayton.
“I am very proud of the Council for allowing us to adopt the UDC. We have a lot of work to do but at least it’s being recognized at the state level. It’s something to be proud of,” the city manager said.
Melancon also recognized this City’s top employee of the year, Kimberly Judge, director of Development Services.
“Each year, my goal is to highlight one employee who represents our SHINE principles,” said Melancon. SHINE is an acronym for Service, Humility, Integrity, Nobility and Excellence.
Melancon said that Judge has been at the center of seismic changes in the way the City of Dayton does business and works with citizens. He also credited her with helping to change the culture of the City and crafting and developing the UDC, Master Parks Plan and Downtown Revitalization Plan.
“Other work included revamping our development review process, expanding our code enforcement process and holding property owners to a higher standard of care and elevating our standards for new development,” he said. “Our UDC is a lynchpin factor in our city being a Scenic City, an honor that we will receive at the Texas Municipal League conference in October. Her perseverance led to the funding of sidewalks by TxDOT to the tune of $2.7 million, a project that will protect our kids walking to and from school. She was instrumental in the funding of a parks grant for Daniel Park. She has multiple mobility projects and never ceases to produce. I cannot think of a more deserving person to receive this award.”
In other business, City Council:
- recognized the newly created police sergeant positions that are now held by Brian Chowns and Kris Seibert;
- approved a new logo and seal (see related story by clicking here)
- was introduced to Tyke Cameron, the City’s new IT director, and Ann Miller, the new director for the Dayton Community Development Corporation;
- approved a $24,600 contract with Meinholz Services to demolish three dilapidated structures;
- approved a $52,000 contract with First Choice for painting of approximately 10,500 square feet of surfaces in the Dayton Community Center;
- approved an interlocal agreement with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to repave the Hightower Unit access road off of CR 686 in exchange for male and female laborers to perform work on city projects; and
- established a fee of $50 for false fire alarms.
The Council also adopted a new master fee schedule for animal control. The rates have not been updated since the 70s or 80s. The surrender fee is now $25 for animals smaller than 50 pounds and $40 for animals larger than 50 pounds. The disposal fee is $25 and adoption fees are $50 for dogs and $25 for cats.
If an animal requires quarantine, the fee is $240. Animals that are seized will cost owners $10 per day with owners paying an additional $15 to have their dog released from “doggie jail.”
“If you have a dog that has been designated a dangerous dog, like if it has bit someone or another animal, and has been declared a dangerous dog, there are certain things owners must do by state law,” said City Attorney Brandon Davis.
The City’s fee to register a dangerous dog is $350 per year.