Council woman says 'nay' vote misrecorded
Last updated 11/3/2020 at 10:27pm
Terrie Turner Salter, Orange city councilwoman representing District 3, says she wants people to know that she voted against a resolution that will raise the penalty on delinquent city taxes from 15% to 20%, beginning with 2020 taxes.
According to Trisha Anderson, Orange city secretary, the vote at last week’s council meeting was unanimous in favor of increasing the penalty to 20%.
Salter said councilwoman Caroline Hennigan made the motion and councilman Paul Burch seconded the motion to approve a resolution for the increase which hundreds of local governments across the state have passed over the past 20 years to pay higher costs incurred by Linebarger Goggan Blair & Simpson, a third-party law firm that handles collections for Dallas and Harris counties, as well as Orange County.
“It made me furious,” Salter said of the hike in the penalty.
“We [council members] are there as representatives of the citizens and they [Hennigan and Burch] are at-large councilmembers, representing the entire city.
“It’s not that we couldn’t have gone up at times, but this is not the right time.”
She said the coronavirus shutdowns that hurt local businesses and left many unemployed combined with dealing with evacuation costs and property damage from Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Delta made it a bad time to raise penalty fees.
“If people are behind on their taxes, they’re struggling,” Salter said. “I have delinquent property. I’ve paid them all but one of my 14 properties.
“I’d rather keep people paying something than raising the penalty to the point where they just give up paying,” she said. “When do you stop kicking people?”
The vote, like most at Orange council meetings, was a voice vote in which the meeting leader, usually the mayor or mayor pro-tem, after receiving a motion and a second from members of the council, calls for a vote by saying, “All in favor?” and those voting affirmative say “Aye.“
The leader then says “All opposed?” Those against the resolution say “Nay.”
Anderson said she replayed the videotape of the meeting and did not hear anyone say “Nay.”
Salter maintains she said “Nay,” but maybe not loud enough to be recorded.
“I’m against it, and I want people to know I didn’t vote for it,” she said.
Karen Fisher, the tax assessor-collector for Orange County, whose office handles joint tax billing and accounting for about 20 cities, schools and special districts in the county, said that with Orange’s vote for the 20% delinquent tax penalty, only the West Orange-Cove school district among the county’s taxing entities retains the 15% penalty.
She provided information that the price of postage alone had gone up 266% from 15 cents per stamp in 1980, when the rate was raised to 15%, to 55 cents in 2020.
The state legislature OK’d local governments going up a 20% penalty in 2001 and Lynda Gunstream, Fisher’s predecessor in office, began soon after convincing local governments to go along with the increase.
The city of Orange delinquent tax penalty has been 15% since 1980. In 2006, the county previously asked city council to increase Orange’s penalty to 20% and that resolution was voted down.
City allocates Hotel/Motel tax funds for 2021
Orange City Council finalized awarding $144,000 in hotel/motel tax funds to 11 local agencies at their Oct. 27 meeting.
Heading the list with a $52,000 award was the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. Lutcher Theater and Heritage House Museum received allocations of $20,000 each.
The African American Museum and the Gate City Guild #42 each received $10,000, while the Friends of the Orange Depot garnered $7,000. Granted $5,000 each were the South East Texas Arts Council, the Orange Lions Club, Adventure 2000 Plus, Gulf Coast Cajuns Chapter and Airboat Services.