Letter to the editor: Reinstate COLA for retirees

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune

The City retirees feel like they have been kicked to the curb and ignored.

The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for City retirees needs to be reinstated this budget year. Even when the Council consents to put it back into the policy, retirees won’t realize the benefit until January 2021. Why was it eliminated in 2017? No explanation was given.

Throughout 2017 the City Financial Director reported that revenues exceeded budget and that expenses were below budget. No major signs of financial distress were indicated. But suddenly, on September 5, 2017 the City could no longer afford to give the retirees a cost of living adjustment.

The City Council has increased the effective tax rate each year (2017 tax rate – 8.08% increase; 2018 tax rate – 3.42% increase; 2019 – 5.93% increase). They will point out that the “adopted” tax rates were 2017 -$0.4800/$100; 2018 -$0.4750/$100 and 2019 - $0.47/$100 and that is correct.

But, in terms of how much the City collects in property taxes (which property owners pay), the effective tax rate is more representative of the truth. The answer lies in the Appraisal District’s final total of taxable property valuation. So the Council can righteously claim to keep the rate the same or even lower it, but collect more in property taxes.

This year the Council has even granted significant raises (some received as much as 14.64% pay increase), and a “1.79% COLA for most current employees” (Pages 2 and 7 of 2019-2020 Adopted Budget Overview by the City Manager, Allen Barnes).

It’s time for this wrong to be made right.

Bob Self/formerly of Stephenville