Residents will get a chance to vote on the MDD issue Nov. 7. Proposition A as worded on the ballot calls for “The authorizing the creation of the Copperas Cove Municipal Development District and the imposition of a sales and use tax at the rate of three-eighth percent for the purpose of financing development projects beneficial to the district.”
If passed, the MDD would not be funded until the Economic Development Corporation is dissolved. That would take a separate election, more than likely in May. There would not be an increase in taxes. If the MDD is passed, and the EDC is dissolved, tax money from the EDC would be transferred to the MDD.
Getting to a vote has not been easy. The relationship between the city and EDC has been interesting the last few years. EDC employees were changed to City employees in November. An ad hoc committee was formed during summer 2016 and recommended the change and ballot language in July for an MDD.
Councilman David Morris was on the committee.
“When the EDC was formed (in the 1990s), that was the only kind of economic development available,” Morris said. “This is a great tool to add to our tool bag for economic development.”
Some of the differences is boundaries for tax collection can be expanded beyond the city limits; City Council members could be included on a MDD board of directors; the MDD does not require public hearings, performance agreements or elections although bylaws could be created to tackle some of those issues; MDD projects would include all of the projects from a type B economic development and community development plus a convention center facility, a civic center building, hotel or auditorium.
The primary purposes of a type A is to create or retain primary jobs.
Former EDC Chairman Marc Payne believes the EDC is the solution for the city.
“The only reason the EDC may not be eliminated is if the MDD fails and is not voted in,” Payne said. “That would be the best-case scenario for the citizen.”
Payne said the MDD model is not transparent and relatively new.
“It was originally set up to serve cities of 10,000 or less in population,” Payne said. “The MDD does not have to report to the state, city or citizens, thus, some small cities have been forced to return to an EDC because of the misappropriations of funds.”
Morris countered that the bylaws would be set up by the council — a group that has been tough on accountability with various groups the last few years. He said the City Council discovered the EDC was not sending in state reports for two years and quickly changed that practice.
“We as a council will help form their (MDD’s) bylaws, but require all of the same (EDC) reports to the state,” Morris said. “Other than changing a couple of initials, I want to see the same accountability and standards in spending the money we currently have.”
Morris said having a MDD allows the city to have “quality of life projects” helping to attract businesses and people to the city.
He said a MDD board of directors would have five to nine members under the direction of the executive director. The executive director would report to the city.
Councilman Matt Russell said more than 40 governmental units have changed to MDD’s in the last few years.
Azle City Manager Tom Muir has been under a MDD for two years. The city has a population of just over 12,000 people. Muir said Azle has two councilmen on a seven-person board.
“I am indifferent as to the makeup of the board, but some feel that having the council serving as the board provides more accountability to voters,” Muir said in an email. “Of course, there is the argument that having the board made up entirely of citizens better involves the community.”
He believes the MDD format can fit nearly every community.
“I am still getting used to it (MDD), but I find it more flexible and beneficial to the community as a whole than an EDC,” Muir said.
On Nov. 7 and maybe into the month of May, voters will get the last word in this battle over economic development control.