A proposition regarding the extension of hours for sale of alcoholic beverages was discussed in Thursdays City Council meeting at length. The council feels that extending the hours would be a significant part of the downtown master plan. It would allow for more activity downtown, which is one of the components of the master plan.Councilman Chris Jones said he’d be supportive of this proposition if there was adequate police coverage. Chief Howard Williams assured the council that police coverage would not be an issue, if the San Marcos Police Department was fulfilled its request of new officers for fiscal year 2008-09.
The police department has also considered changing the work hours of the officers, to accommodate for the change. The council decided in favor of putting the proposition on the ballot as non-binding. City Attorney Michael Cosentino said non-binding authorized the council, but did not require it to put the proposition into effect.
Councilman Jones favored putting it as a binding proposition. He said if the citizens pass it on the ballot, they’re going to expect results. Mayor Pro-Tem Daniel Guerrero said that it needed to be non-binding, because that allows the council to put it into effect once they feel it is appropriate and everything is in order.
The City budget was a hot topic, specifically the advertising partnership between the city, and the Tanger and Prime outlet malls. In the past the city provided the malls with $50,000, the San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau gave $50,000, and each of the malls matched put forth $100,000, for a total of $300,000 to be used for advertising of the malls and the city. In the new budget, the Prime Outlet Mall requested $307,000 and the Tanger Outlet Mall requested $150,000, for a total of $457,000 from the city. Councilman Jones opposed the request.
“I’m concerned about taking out tax dollars from our poor citizens, rich citizens, and all citizens to subsidize rich people to come and shop,” said Jones.
The council had to consider that the outlet malls bring in a lot of money into the city, and therefore should be supported.
“Every dollar that comes into our city, gives abatement to your property taxes,” said Mayor Susan Narvaiz.
Narvaiz and Guerrero both said that this could be a one-time deal and that in the fiscal years to come, the amount the city puts forth could be reduced. City Council Member John Thomaides said he would only be supportive of $200,000. Representatives of both Tanger and Prime Outlets said that they needed the funds now more than ever. They said four more outlet malls will be opening in Texas, including one in San Antonio, and they need to make sure the malls in San Marcos are not affected. The council went ahead and approved the full request of $457,000, but left it to city staff and the malls to discuss how the funds would be allocated between Tanger and Prime.
The first of three readings for the Water/Wastewater five percent increase took place. City Manager Rick Menchaca said the increase was needed to cover additional water supplies, investments on the Hays-Caldwell Public Utility Agency, debt coverage on the revenue bonds, and for additional debt from 2007. Councilman Jones asked to delay the increase at least for a year.
“Times are hard,” said Jones. “I understand the responsibilities of what we have to do, but I want to help our citizens.”
Narvaiz said although the increase is big, it is needed. She said the city has to pay for a secure resource of water, and the public needs to be informed.
“What we’re paying for is not for the moment,” said Narvaiz. “We are planning for the future.”
San Marcos resident Sherri Bilson, the only resident to comment on the issue, was opposed to the increase. She said that an increase would be detrimental for the residents, all utilities are increasing. She asked the council to consider other options, like not giving money to the outlet malls.
Narvaiz said that other options should be considered. She said the city could share the burden and provide money from the general fund, even if it means to cut some special programs.
“These are big discussions and I’m open for them,” said Narvaiz.
San Marcos residents are invited to attend the city council meetings and put forth any comments they may have with the issues at hand. The next city council meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday August 19 at the Council Chambers in City Hall.