BOGATA — City Council approved major changes to the annual budget Monday night, removing an expense account and trading it for raises for the police force.
Though the city did not post the budget workshop before the council meeting as required by the Texas Open Meetings Act, the council is working to gain back public trust after the resignation of the mayor and a city council member.
They started by passing the budget and tax rate. The council set the tax rate at $0.645661 per $100 valuation of property.
Included in the budget was the raise Bogata Police Chief David Short asked for — and then some. The $1 per hour raise was for his officers, Short clarified, and the council saw fit to include him in the bargain. Though his is a salaried position, the raise amounts to basically $1 per hour for him as well.
“We had decided to take away the expense accounts of the previous mayor and give those to the police department, where the police officers received their raise,” Mayor Pro-Tem Jacob Rose said. “And, also, that helped contribute to health insurance for our city employees.”
The comment received clapping from the audience.
The expense account Rose referred to was a $15,000 per year account that the mayor could draw on for expenses related to the position. It was distributed as $1,250 monthly.
The Bogata council also agreed to establish guidelines and criteria for tax abatement and economic development prospects in the city.
There was some pushback from audience members who questioned if this was specifically for the nursing home property the city cleared last year on the corner of Highways 37 and 271. The property, 605 Paris Road, was on the agenda for action after executive session giving notice of intent to enter into development of the property.
The city’s attorney, Jay Garrett, said this wasn’t entering into an agreement with any business, it was merely the first step for the city should a new business wish to establish itself in Bogata. The decision allows the council to offer future tax abatements to lure businesses to the city, Rose said.
“We can have some things saying we can do certain tax abatements on that if you follow the guidelines we are wanting,” Rose said.
Councilman Cecil “Tex” Loften, said this wasn’t a “blanket authorization,” but a tool to help the city grow.
“We need to recruit businesses to come to Bogata,” he said.
After executive session, the council addressed the property in question. The agreed to start plans for a development agreement to do something with the property.
Outside of the meeting, Mohammed “Mo” and Sam Azam, who own the Shell station on Highway 271 in Bogata, said they are the ones who want to purchase the property, but weren’t ready to reveal their plans for it just yet, saying there were several steps before it became a reality.