BIG SANDY — Opponents of the Upshur County Appraisal District's proposed budget for 2014 moved a step closer to achieving their goal Friday when the Big Sandy City Council voted 3-2 to veto the budget, becoming at least the fourth taxing entity of nine needed to approve a veto resolution.
Mayor Nancy Church cast the tiebreaking vote at a specially called 8 a.m. meeting at which the proposed veto was the only item on the agenda, City Secretary Laura Moody said. Councilmen Lupe Gonzalez and John Worden supported the veto, while Wayne Weese and Monica DeCuir opposed it during the 13-minute meeting, Ms. Moody said.
Upshur County Precinct 3 Commissioner Frank Berka, one of the leaders in the campaign to veto the proposed budget because of its controversial 5 percent pay raise for district employees, had asked the Big Sandy council for the veto Monday night.
That city joined the Upshur County Commissioners Court, the Ore City Independent School District Board of Trustees, and the Gladewater City Council in approving a veto resolution. Thirteen other taxing entities that support the district financially also have a say in whether to approve its proposed $790,000 budget and taking no vote on it is tantamount to approving it.
Entities have until July 10 to act on the budget — 30 days from the date the appraisal district board of directors approved it by a 3-1 vote.
Summarizing Friday's meeting in Big Sandy, Ms. Moody quoted Gonzalez as complaining about the provision that no action would equal approval, and as saying he thought the district "needed to be more transparent." However, she added, Weese said the council should have confidence in the appraisal district's board of directors, and that he did not think the pay raises the district has received in recent years were "exorbitant."
The appraisal district contends the raises are needed because it must compete with other appraisal districts for employees, and that bringing in a new replacement appraiser would cost $10,000. Upshur County Chief Appraiser Sarah Curtis has also said her workers' pay is "not up to average" with comparable appraisal districts.
However, the resolutions approved by the Big Sandy council and the county commissioners expressed concern that the pay raise might trigger a tax hike, and said that Upshur appraisal district employees have received raises for five of the past six years.
Ms. Moody said the city of Big Sandy delivered a copy of its veto resolution to the district's office in Gilmer. Meantime, Upshur County Precinct 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner said Friday that the Ore City City Council is set to act on the appraisal district budget July 9, and Upshur County Republican Party Chairman Cynthia Ridgeway said she has asked the New Diana ISD Board of Trustees to veto the appraisal budget.
Mrs. Curtis told the Tyler Morning Telegraph after the Big Sandy council's vote Friday that, "I'm just going to wait till the 30 days (that entities have to act on the budget) is up (on July 10), and see what happens. I'm not going to worry about it."