By JUDY SHERIDAN
The Crime Control and Prevention District proposed for the Town of Annetta — which voters have the chance to accept or reject in the May 10 election — moved forward last week with an April 7 public hearing.
During the sparsely attended hearing, two residents spoke in favor of the proposed district, which would fund crime reduction programs with dedicated revenue from a sales tax increase.
“I definitely am for this,” Danny Coffman, a candidate for town council, said, “and would like to see our citizens get behind it for a number of reasons. One, I would love for us to be more proactive with crime prevention.
“There are obviously little things that happen here ... and as our area does grow, we will see more things come up. If we can have this established already, we can stay one step ahead.”
Resident Katherine Thompson worried aloud about the potential for a successful liquor election in neighboring Aledo — also on the May 10 ballot — and advocated that East Parker County cities work together to fight crime.
“I’m opposed to [the liquor election] for a lot of reasons,” she said, “but I do absolutely believe it increases crime. Everybody always talks about how they want liquor because it increases revenue, but according to everything I’ve read, you always end up spending your revenue taking care of the problems the liquor brings in.”
“We can patrol our little streets all day long, but if the town right next to us is just opening their doors wide, it’s going to bleed over into our neighborhoods.”
The hearing was presided over by the proposed district’s temporary board, which includes Mike Herring, Dennis Thompson, president Mark Wohl, secretary Robert Carter, Shelby Kimball, Cynthia Harrison and Laurie Sheridan.
If voters approve it, the Crime Control and Prevention District would be fueled by a one-quarter of one percent increase in the city’s sales tax, upping it from 7.75 percent to 8 percent.
Of that, 1.25 percent would go to the Town of Annetta, 6.25 percent to the state and .5O percent to Parker County.
Street repair fund
In a separate proposition on the May 10 ballot, the Town of Annetta is also asking voters to approve an additional one-quarter of one percent sales tax increase dedicated to street repair and maintenance.
If both propositions pass, the current sales tax would increase to 8.25 percent, the maximum allowed state sales tax rate, with 1.50 percent going to the Town of Annetta.
The temporary board accepted a proposed budget for the proposed Crime Control and Prevention District in February, estimating an annual projected income of $5,963 for each of the next two fiscal years — beginning Oct. 1, 2014 — as well as $1,490 for the remaining quarter of 2014.
The money would be budgeted and spent by the Annetta Town Council.
Included in the budget is the provision that 70 percent of the funds be dedicated to a police-community cooperation program, such as a contract with the sheriff’s department, and 30 percent to a community crime resistance program, like a neighborhood crime watch or communications system.
Carter read from a pamphlet prepared for the hearing, which stated that criminal activities grow as communities grow, according to studies.
“We have an awful lot of growth within what I refer to as easy walking distance,” he said. “There’s 125 new lots being developed right now in Annetta South and also in our ETJ. Both Aledo and Willow Park are actively pursuing new developments ... and Walsh Ranch is a massive development.”
Carter pointed out that anyone who makes a retail purchase, resident or non-resident, would pay the tax, “so that’s a way of us getting money from outside our area of jurisdiction and benefitting our citizens.”
He said a city sales tax report shows that almost all the sales tax collections in Annetta come from businesses that do their sales over the Internet or through a venue other than walk-in retail sales, increasing the number of “outside” consumers paying for anti-crime efforts.
Carter said the vote is really about having local control of the money that would be raised.
“If we do not pass this crime control prevention district, and we go forward with not having it local, then the alternative is that any special district of the state of Texas — like ESD No. 1 — could pass its own sales tax for its entire jurisdictional district and take this money from our community and spend it as per the discussions that go on in Springtown.”
According to the Texas State Association of Fire and Emergency Districts, an ESD can collect sales tax in addition to the property taxes it collects, but voters must approve this power in an election.
Annetta Mayor Bruce Pinckard said a city can take money out of its general fund to fight crime, but does so at the expense of other needed items.
“The idea to capture the revenue increase, to dedicate it, protects the rest of the general fund from being spent on other items,” he said, “and we know we sorely need it for roads and infrastructure, administrative costs, utility bills and those types of things.”