NOLANVILLE — Mayor Charlie L. Stewart forfeited his office Thursday after missing three regular council meetings due to his incarceration in Bell County Jail.
Stewart was arrested July 20 on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child and has remained jailed since. Three consecutive unexcused absences is cause for forfeiture of an elected official’s office, according to City Manager Stephen Pearl.
The council Thursday unanimously approved a resolution recognizing the mayor’s absences and his subsequent office forfeiture, with no additional comments on the subject.
“I think they were just ready for it to be done,” Pearl said about the council’s silence.
Mayor Pro Tem Brenda Huckaba will continue to preside over council meetings until the next mayor is chosen Nov. 6.
Pearl said it’s been business as usual with the city in spite of Stewart’s arrest and incarceration.
“(We’ll) just keep on the way we’re going,” he said. “Everything’s been going great with the city. We’ve been moving forward with city business; it hasn’t really effected it.”
In other business Thursday, more than 20 people spoke at a public hearing about the city’s proposed 11 percent tax hike. Some were in favor of the increase, while others expressed concern over the impact it would have on senior citizens and others who live on set incomes.
The proposed 2012-13 budget calls for a 5-cent raise in property taxes, from 46 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 51 cents. The council is asking for the increase to meet requests for street improvements and parks, Pearl said.
“We’ve had a few town hall meetings since I’ve been here, and those have been our main concerns: when are we going to start working on the streets and when are we going to get some parks?” he said.
Nolanville homeowner Colleen Smith said she was concerned about the tax hike until she did some research on the Internet.
“I went online and downloaded the 2012 Truth in Taxation, which really explained a lot of what you’re trying to do,” Smith told the council. “The 11 percent is not an increase to the citizens, it is an increase in the revenue to the city … to help you pay for what you want to do for us.”
Patricia Gonzalez, who said she owns two pieces of property in Nolanville, asked the council to consider raising taxes in increments for the sake of people who live on fixed incomes.
“I don’t mind our taxes going up to benefit the different programs … but I’m also concerned about our citizens here that are the elderly and that are on a fixed income of only what social security can give to them,” she said. “We know that taxes have to be raised in order for us to have all the services we need, that is common sense to all of us. … If we have to raise the taxes, do it in moderation.”
The council will consider the proposed tax rate again at its meeting on Sept. 20.