Ore City vetoes UCAD budget
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Jul 05, 2013 | 1060 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ORE CITY — Only hours before the Union Grove School Board refused to follow suit, the Ore City City Council voted 4-1 Thursday to veto the Upshur County Appraisal District's proposed 2014 budget, becoming at least the fifth taxing entity to approve a veto resolution.

Controversy over the proposed budget, which is annually financed by most of the entities that tax property in the county, has centered around a proposed five percent pay raise for Appraisal District employees.

The Ore City Council's vote came after it heard David Clay, chairman of the UCAD Board of Directors, defend the proposed budget and Upshur County Republican Party Chairman Cynthia Ridgeway urge the veto resolution.

During a specially-called late afternoon meeting, Clay told the council that despite raising workers' pay for three of the past four years, UCAD is "way below the average" in pay for comparable districts.

"We don't just pull figures out of the air. We try to get some information" on what those comparable districts are paying, said Clay. He said the Bandera County district had hired a consulting group to poll counties of its and Upshur's size.

Clay said UCAD wanted to get up to the average pay, not above it, and avoid losing appraisers since replacing one costs $10,000 for the newcomer's schooling and education.

When Councilwoman Jeannette Cox asked, "Are you losing appraisers? Are they leaving?," Clay replied the district had lost none this year, but had lost some in the past to the higher-paying Gregg County Appraisal District.

Clay also said the new budget's raises would cost taxing entities a combined $17,000, about $116 of which would be Ore City's share. (That city's total contribution to the budget, including the pay hike, would rise from $5,151 for 2013 to $5,410.)

Mrs. Ridgeway, however, complained that the district's proposal would raise county taxes. Upshur County pays the second highest amount of any entity toward the Appraisal District budget, next only to Gilmer ISD.

"We the citizens are tired of paying continually increased taxes," said Mrs. Ridgeway, who with Upshur County Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka and Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry has led the fight to veto the budget. She also dismissed Clay's statement about keeping pace with other Appraisal District's salaries as "keeping up with the Joneses," and said the district's board doesn't really answer to anyone since the general public doesn't elect it.

Citing what she considers tough economic times, Mrs. Ridgeway added, "I don't begrudge anybody getting a raise. . .but we don't always get what we want."

And replying to Clay's statement that the district has returned $146,000 in unused funds to entities in the past four years, the Republican chairman said district workers had kept the raises they were given, and that UCAD "should reduce the starting point" for its budget.

Although some Council members asked questions during the discussion, none expressed any reasonings for their vote in favoring or opposing Ms. Cox's motion for a veto. Council members James Pomeroy, Kelvin Gunnells and Bonnie Caldwell joined her in voting for the motion, while Councilwoman Lisa Hobbs opposed it.

After the vote near the end of the 34-minute meeting, at which the veto was the only item on the agenda, Mayor Breazeale said, "I certainly hope we made the right decision. I personally believe we have."
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