Mar 30, 2017

City Approves Retirement Payment

City Of Hart Approves  Payment To City Secretary’s Retirement

By Neoma Williams

After a contentious discussion of City Secretary Monica Guzman’s request to approve a payment by the City to the Texas Municipal Retirement System, a unanimous vote of the Council to pay the City’s and Guzman’s portions was made at the March 20 regular meeting of the Council at City Hall.

Council members present were Mayor Eleazar Castillo, Vickie Ethridge, Ezekiel Barron, Mary Reyna, Johnny Carrasco and George Chapa, Jr.

Guzman had been a part-time assistant city secretary for four years before she became the city secretary in November 2016 upon the resignation of then city secretary Marsela Marin.

Guzman told the council that when she was completing the application to TMRS, she noted that an employee who works not less than 1,000 hours per year (which she did) is required to participate in the retirement plan. Current and previous City council members apparently had mistakenly understood that part-time employees did not participate. The retirement program began in 2003.

In a letter to Mrs. Guzman from TMRS, dated January 25, 2017, it is noted that once the error of non-participation is discovered, retroactive correction of no more than four years from the date written application is received in the TMRS office in Austin is required.  Guzman told the Council that the total amount (her  contribution and the City’s contribution) is estimated to be $4,866.11.  According to a preliminary TMRS report Guzman provided the Council, her portion of the total amount is $2,758.87 (five percent) and the City’s is $2,107.54 (3.82%).

Council member Vickie Etheridge  told Guzman at the meeting:  “You should pay your part and the City should pay its part.”

However, Guzman said that a TMRS representative told her by phone that the City is required to pay her portion and the City’s portion to TMRS. And, she said she had spoken by phone to the current City fiscal auditor of Doshier, Pickens and Francis, LLC, from Amarillo, and he had also said that the City should pay her portion.  No Council member voiced having the City pay Guzman’s portion. It was, however, eventually voiced in a motion by Etheridge for the City to pay the full amount and for Guzman to reimburse the City at $10 a week. Chapa seconded the motion.

In other business, the Council voted to give employees a three percent raise, effective May 1. The total increase for the fiscal year is $3,860.32. Voting against the increase was Carrasco. Also approved was a credit for water usage for the Mayor and Council members at $20.50 a month for a total of $1,476 for a year.

City Administrator Adrian Rosas said he had been approached by a citizen regarding vandalism in the City. This citizen reported damage to her vehicle.  Council member Etheridge said she has been told that  one citizen had left keys to his vehicle in the vehicle overnight and discovered the next morning that the keys had been taken. The City has no law enforcement employee, but relies on the Sheriff’s Dept. In the past, the City and Castro County had an agreement that one deputy was assigned to spend more than the usual time in Hart, and the City’s cost, which included a vehicle and the employee’s retirement and health insurance benefits, was $50,000 a year. Some council members said that they did not think the deputy spent enough time in the City.

The Hart Volunteer Fire Department, it was discussed, has been looking for a siren that can be heard over most of the community when a tornado alert is sounded. The current system is not powerful enough for all citizens to hear. The City of Dumas has a siren system it will donate to the City. No amount was discussed to install the system, and no action was taken.

The Council approved a  negotiated resolution between West Texas Cites Steering Committee (WTX Cities) and Atmos Energy, regarding rate reviews.  The resolution notes that pursuant to the 2013 agreement to increase rates, WTX Cities and the Atmos have worked to develop a new rate review mechanism tariff that allows for an expedited rate review process.

Also, a proposed budget for the upcoming new fiscal year was discussed.