To the Editor:
The Harker Heights City Council recently approved the full impact fee for future development up FM 2410 towards Belton. The vote was 3-2 in favor.
Everyone should be asking why it was not 5-0.
The fee of $6,133 is calculated by Texas law and covers 50% of the wastewater improvement costs for new development up FM 2410.
The determined fee uses costs specific to the area and anticipated growth for the next 10-year period and was calculated by a contracted engineering firm and finally considered and recommended by a Council-appointed Capital Improvements Advisory Committee that included a banker and a Realtor who we can assume knew what effect the fee might have.
The city announced hearings on this fee, with the remaining 50% of necessary costs to be supported by Harker Heights citizens in the form of increased water use fee increases, city tax reserves, or future bond issuances.
Ms. (Lynda) Nash and Ms. Jackeline) Fountain voted no and instead wanted a substantially lower fee. It is right to ask why they preferred pushing more development costs to an already overburdened Harker Heights taxpayer.
These two members — both fully exempt from property taxation — should have been especially sensitive to shifting even more tax burdens to Harker Heights taxpayers. But they did not and the question we must ask is why not?
Both stated that developers needed to be grandfathered in from new costs, but they know that Texas law doesn’t allow imposition of impact fees until one year after adoption. Ms. Nash asked that specific question at Hearing #1.
What is more likely is that Ms. Nash, in her role as the Bell County Democratic Party chair, would not alienate the builders and developers, knowing that group has historically been the largest local political donor.
So much for the paradigm that the Democrats are looking out for the small taxpayer. Her vote would have pushed over $4M in development costs directly back to taxpayers, for the benefit of developers.
It’s time for Ms. Nash to consider that her dual role as Democrat Chair for Bell County and as City Council member is a conflict. We just saw it firsthand, and the city taxpayers were on the losing end.
It is important to note the courage of Mr. (Michael) Blomquist to make the motion for the full impact fee, as well as the follow-on support of Mr. (Sam) Halabi and Mayor (Spencer) Smith in carrying this motion 3-2 for the benefit of taxpayers. Thank you.
Howard “Scot” Arey