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It’s a home run for home rule

by | May 11, 2022 | Area news, Latest

Farmersville voters, apparently believing it is time for their city to take the next step toward municipal adulthood, said “yes” to a request on Saturday to create a home rule charter that City Hall will use to govern its affairs while also endorsing the re-election of Bryon Wiebold to a second term as mayor.

Now that the charter has been approved, Wiebold will serve for the next three years instead of the two-year term mandated by the general law rules under which the city governed itself. Moreover, city councilmen Mike Henry and Terry Williams were unopposed in their bids for re-election. Wiebold defeated challenger Denise Kelly in final unofficial returns provided by City Hall. Williams was re-elected to his seat in Place 2, while Henry returns for a second term in Place 4.

Wiebold cruised to re-election for a second term, garnering 181 votes to Kelly’s 49 votes, according to returns released by City Secretary Tabatha Monk.

“I am honored and humbled to be able to serve as mayor,” Wiebold said in reaction to his re-election. “I am excited to work with this city council and to continue to move the city forward as it continues to grow,” he added.

The home rule charter measure also passed by a similarly decisive margin, with 174 “yes” votes compared to just 59 votes against the charter proposal.

Monk had distributed copies of the proposed charter to all 2,122 registered voters living in Farmersville prior to the election, as required by state law. The results, though, showed a voter turnout on Election Day of slightly more than 11% of all registered voters. Wiebold expressed disappointment in the lack of voter interest in the election, but suggested that “when people are happy, they just don’t tend to vote.”

City councilman Craig Overstreet, who co-chaired the committee that drafted the home rule charter that was put before voters in a citywide election, expressed gratitude for the voters’ decision.

“Based on the expanded provisions for local governance that the charter contains, I am excited for the community as Farmersville continues to grow. Thank you to our citizens for their support.”

City councilmember Craig Overstreet

Overstreet expressed some concern prior to Election Day about some chatter he had heard around the community from those who thought the ballot measure called for creation of charter schools, which Overstreet thought might inhibit support for the home rule charter on the ballot. There apparently was little opposition to the home rule charter to be found.

The city had been governed under general law, meaning statutes approved by the Legislature. Farmersville needed to be home to at least 5,000 inhabitants to enable the city to call for a charter election; the city passed that threshold after the 2020 Census was completed.

What happens now that the home rule measure has received the endorsement of most of the voters? The Texas Local Government Code states: “A charter or charter amendment goes into effect when the city council enters an order in the records of the city that the charter or … amendment is adopted.” The code also stipulates that the “mayor or the chief executive officer of the city shall certify to the secretary of state an authenticated copy of the charter … showing the approval of the charter or the amendment by the voters.” The Local Government Code also goes into meticulous detail about the filing and recording of the certification by the city secretary or someone on city staff who performs “similar functions” of the city secretary.

The Texas Election Code further compels the city to canvass the election results no later than 11 days after Election Day and no earlier than three days after an election.

Council will simply approve a resolution finalizing approval of the home rule charter. City Attorney Alan Lathrom said that there is no public hearing required and that there will not be an ordinance approved by council.

Texas voters also approved two amendments to the Texas Constitution, both of which concerned property taxes.

Proposition 1 was approved with 1,118,313 voting in favor and 168,398 voting against the measure.

The proposition would lower the tax rates for homeowners who are elderly or disabled to reflect tax rate decreases enacted by the Legislature in 2019. 

Proposition 2 was approved with 1,102,907 votes in favor and 197,254 against. The measure increased the exemption of a home’s value for school tax purposes, which was previously $25,000, to $40,000.

State legislators outlined a plan to reimburse school districts across the state a total of $4.4 billion for any lost revenues because of the tax changes but the plan only runs through 2026. It is unclear if lawmakers have a plan to cover any lost funding after 2026.

All election results are unofficial until canvassed by the city and state.

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