The resolution placed on the agenda sought to raise the current millage of 2 mills to five mills, to help the city increase revenues to make up for shortfalls in the budget.
When the resolution was read, Alderman Lynn Maxedon made a motion to decrease the millage to 3 mills, rather than the five specified in the resolution.
Before the vote was taken council members discussed the issue. Aldermen Stokes, Maxedon, Tom Thone, Ray Torbitt and Kent Viers adamantly opposed the 5 mill tax, but were receptive to the three mills suggested by Maxedon.
Stokes, said, "I am very disappointed we are hitting our residents up after they just narrowly passed a one percent sales tax. I just don't think this is the time and place to do that until we see what the result of what the proceeds will be from the sales tax. We have adjusted our budget and made reductions. I am still upset that the two mills that was supposed to be for roads and streets was put into the General Fund. I would support the three mills if we designate two mills to go into the road and street department and one mill to go into the General Fund. I would vote for that, otherwise I am not voting for a five mill tax."
Mayor Lloyd Hefley then pointed out to council that when the budget is submittedon Dec. 1, without the tax, it will force the city to make cuts in the fire department. He said, "I hate taxes too, but that is the stark reality of it."
City Treasurer Lana Hamilton explained, if the fire department was cut, the city's ISO rating would go up, causing insurance rates to increase significantly.
The millage is based on the accessed value of owner's homes. The amount equals one dollar per thousand of accessed valuation.
Alderman Jerry Adams pointed out many persons whose home values are $70,000 or less receive a Homestead Credit and do not pay any real estate taxes.
The council then voted to accept the amended resolution to raise the millage from two to three mills. With yes votes from Maxedon, Thone, Viers, Stokes and Torbitt, the motion passed. Hefley said, "This is a bad day, this is the worst thing I have had happen since I have been mayor of the city."
Alderman Adams said, "I don't understand some of my fellow councilmen's resistance to trying to bring in as much revenue as we can. It is not as if we are passing ridiculous taxes that are overbearing on anyone. These are basic forms of revenue we need to have to survive in the Village."
Council then had to vote on the actual amended resolution, and heated discussion began as the mayor, treasurer Hamilton and other council members were questioned by the audience.
Hamilton said, " I think our citizens would have insisted we pass this."
The city has only one opportunity in which to submit their millages to the Quorum Court, and would not have another opportunity until next October.
At that point, most thought the motion had passed for a three mill tax, but city attorney Jon Abele informed members they had to vote on the actual resolution for a 5 mill increase, informing them the last vote was only on the amendment made by Maxedon.
When Maxedon called for the vote, audience member and Cherokee Village resident Barbara Hrezo addressed the council saying, "I'd like to know how the city council members can vote on the millage, when none of you know what that dollar figure is. How can you sit up there and say 'no' or 'yes,' when you have no idea if this is going to raise our taxes $2 a year or $500 dollars a year. You are sitting there and have no clue what you are voting on."
She asked them to consider an average home and tell the citizens how much the increase would be on a yearly basis.
Further discussion determined that the cost of the millage increase as opposed to the cost for increased insurance rates if a fire department was to be closed, were significantly less. The council stated that $1 per thousand dollars of assessed value is the cost per mill, with the increase.
Council then voted on the original resolution to increase the millage from 2 to five mills. Alderman Thone, Stokes, Maxedon and Torbitt voted against the increase with the remaining members voting to pass the five mill tax.
The millage passed and will be submitted to the Quorum Court.
The Cherokee Village City Council meets the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Cherokee Village City Hall. The public is welcome to attend these meetings.