By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Don Jaszkowski said he received the perfect birthday present Tuesday.
The Killeen City Council, at Tuesday's meeting, unanimously approved an ordinance to stop increasing property taxes for senior citizens and people with disabilities beginning with the 2009 tax year.
For the past three years he has been lobbying the council to implement the tax freeze for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Jaszkowski said he wanted this more for his wife and widows than himself.
"This is the reason I was fighting, for my wife, not for me, because when I'm gone, she's on her own," Jaszkowski told the council.
The Killeen government is the only taxing entity in the city that does not offer the tax freeze. Central Texas College, Killeen Independent School District and Bell County provide tax freezes.
"I'm glad to see Killeen joined the rest of the crowd," Jaszkowski said.
A tax freeze for senior citizens means that once a ceiling is established for property taxes, the tax rate will not increase. If the tax rate is lowered, then the resident would pay less.
"It's not really a freeze, it's a ceiling," Bell County Chief Tax Appraiser Marvin Hahn said during an August workshop.
In other business:
The council also approved buying a bus for $1. The Killeen Fire Department asked the council to approve the purchase from Killeen Independent School District.
"Basically, we're going to use the bus to transport academy cadets," Fire Chief Jerry Gardner said.
He also said the fire department has needed or borrowed a bus from KISD numerous times in the past year. During heavy rains last summer, Gardner said stretchers had to be unloaded from ambulances so residents could be evacuated from rising floodwaters.
About 400 residents were evacuated in October after a truck hauling oxygen tanks tipped over on Farm-to-Market 439.
On Thanksgiving Day, more than 20 residents were taken to the Community Center after a fire at the Bay Colony Apartments on Rancier Avenue.
Gardner said those are a few examples when a bus would be useful during an emergency.
"I think this is a wonderful program that will work well for the community," Councilman Billy Workman said.
The council approved a strategic plan. In May, the council hired Randy Pennington, of Pennington Performance Group, to help the city develop a vision for the year 2030 and a strategic plan to reach that vision. Pennington could not speak at the meeting because his flight was delayed in Dallas.
City Manager Connie Green said more than 200 residents participated in focus groups. The Killeen Area Chamber of Commerce, KISD and other community leaders, along with the council and city staff, also worked with Pennington to develop the vision and plan.
"The new strategic plan is a planning guide," Green said. "It is designed to help with decision-making."
The city paid Pennington $43,200 for his services.
The council approved a request by Killeen M&M LP to rezone 1.558 acres only to reverse the decision later.
Public hearing 3 on the agenda was a rezoning request for a property west of Saddle Ridge Drive on Stan Schlueter Loop from R-1 Single Family Residential and B-5 Business District to RC-1 Restaurant and Alcohol Sales District.
Councilman Larry Cole complained that approving the rezoning would allow alcohol on the entire property – including the parking lot – because there was no building footprint to dictate where on the property alcohol would be sold. Cole said there is typically a building footprint that the alcohol is restricted to.
After receiving just one comment – Bob Mitchell, of Mitchell and Associates, speaking in favor of the project – the council voted 4-3 to approve the rezoning. Council members Cole, Juan Rivera and Claudia Brown voted against the rezoning. Later in the meeting, Workman asked to change his vote, saying he understands Cole's point. Workman made a motion to revisit the issue; it was seconded by Cole and approved 4-3 to reconsider.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham, Councilman Otis Evans and Councilman Kenny Wells opposed reconsidering. Cole then made a motion to deny the rezoning request, and Workman seconded that motion. The council denied it on a 4-3 vote with Latham, Evans and Wells the dissenting vote.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550