A declaration of City Council Place 5 vacancy, an amendment on a partial tax exemption for the elderly and disabled, and the approval for phase 2 of the Cottonwood Creek residential development were addressed by Hutto City Council during its April 15 meeting.
Council declared former Council Member Patti Martinez’s Place 5 seat vacant following three consecutive council meeting absences. This is in line with section 3.06 of the city charter which states if a council member fails to attend three consecutive council meetings, without being excused by council, City Council has to declare the seat vacant.
Martinez announced her resignation through a Facebook post on April 7.
"It has been my honor to serve Hutto but my health keeps getting worse and I must prioritize myself for my family," Martinez said in the post. "Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey. I appreciate and love you all."
Council’s declaration of vacancy comes 16 days before the May 1 election. City Council places 2 and 5 are on the ballot, along with two Hutto ISD Board of Trustees spots.
Discussion on filling the seat was made among council members, with Mayor Mike Snyder suggesting Mike Arismendez, Economic Development Corporation board member, and Council Member Robin Sutton suggesting Place 5 candidate Nicole Calderone.
Snyder said he felt it was inappropriate to appoint a current candidate to fill the vacancy because of the precedent it would set.
Calderone, who was present at the meeting, said if presented with the appointment she would decline.
“My intent is to win the seat by the vote of the people,” she said.
There was also public comment made concerning whether an unelected appointee would be able to appoint board members while they served.
Arismendez will be able to appoint board members not on the EDC if the item is listed on future agendas, Public Information Officer Stacy Schmitt said.
Snyder said he suggested Arismendez because of his experience on the EDC and his work on a legal government corporation. Arizmendez has prior experience working in elected office, having served as a mayor in the Lubbock area, Snyder said. Arizmendez is not running for public office.
Although the May 1 election is less than three weeks away, votes would still have to be canvassed by the Williamson County which takes time and wouldn’t be official until close to the second meeting in May, Council Member Dan Thornton said.
Because the Place 5 seat needed to be filled for the remainder of the term, and because the term ends in less than a year, the charter requires the council to fill the vacancy.
Council voted 4-2, approving Arismendez to fill the Place 5 seat.
In other action, an approval to amend the partial tax exemption for people 65 or older was made by council. The amendment reduces the tax exemption for people 65 or older, or a surviving spouse 55 or older, to $30,000 of their assessed property value beginning tax year 2021 and repealing the tax exemption beginning in the 2022 tax year, according to the meeting agenda.
A similar amendment was made for disabled residents, reducing the tax exemption from to $30,000 beginning in the 2021 tax year and repealing the tax exemption in 2022.
The previous tax exemption for people 65 or older and disabled residents was $60,000 of their assessed property value which began in the 2020 tax year. This exemption rate will stay the same for qualified residents still living in the home they were in during the time it was passed.
Both amendments state the total tax amount will not be increased as long as the qualified resident or spouse remains living in their residence. Taxes on the residence could be increased if changes are made outside of repairs or improvements to comply with governmental requirements, according to the agenda.
Council also approved the final plans for phase two of the Cottonwood Creek residential development.
Located north of Carl Stern Drive, phase two covers 22.73 acres of land and consists of 101 single-family residential lots.
The Hutto Planning and Zoning Commission voted for council to consider approval for the plans during its April 6 meeting. According to House Bill 3167, there is a 30-calendar day deadline for action to approve, approve with conditions, or deny all subdivision applications.