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Old foes face off again for council seat

By DAVID TEWES
April 23, 2010 at 5:02 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2010 at 11:23 p.m.


IF YOU GO

Early voting in person for the city council races begins Monday at the Victoria County Elections Office, 111 N. Glass St.

It continues through May 4 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. The exceptions are April 30 and May 4, when voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Two candidates are ready to face off again in the May 8 Victoria City Council race after a close contest between the two last year for District 5.

Incumbent Joe Truman, 47, beat Emett Alvarez, 48, by 41 votes in a special election to fill a vacant position. The vacancy was created when Jim Wyatt resigned, leaving a year on his three-year term.

Super District 5 covers the south half of Victoria.

Truman, vice president of Truman Transfer and Storage Inc., said one of the top issues facing the city and which he's ready to tackle is the economy. That has resulted in a loss of sales tax and other income to the city, forcing the council and staff to adjust the budget.

"I see the possibility of a continuing bad economy being a major issue that we need to deal very cautiously with," Truman said. "We don't need to do any extravagant spending."

Such projects as the reconstruction of Laurent and Sam Houston streets are already planned or are under way. They are necessary and need to be completed, Truman said.

Alvarez, co-owner of Revista de Victoria newspaper, said helping to revive the local economy is a key to helping the city grow. The city council needs to do everything it can to make that happen, he said.

"I think we need to pay very, very close attention to the economy and unemployment levels," he said. "Without an economy working on all cylinders, that's where we derive our resources to fund our city."

Alvarez said there's a need to meet with the rest of the council and staff on the upcoming budget and examine each line of the spending proposal before it's adopted.

"If there's equipment out there that we can stretch out another year, let's do that," he said. "If there are departments that can share resources, let's do that."

Truman said the economy is why he will not support a property tax increase, he said.

"The effective tax rate is the bottom line of what I'm pushing for," he said. "If we can save more, I will be ecstatic. But it's going to be really hard for us to do that."

The effective tax rate is the rate that would raise about the same amount of income as the year before, taking into account increased appraised values.

Alvarez said he would not be satisfied with leaving the tax rate where it is.

"I thought we should have cut it two cents last year down to the effective rate," he said. "I would certainly hope we would cut property taxes at least two pennies next budget year."

Alvarez said he thought it was ironic that the city council and staff said they could cut the tax rate by only half a cent last summer because the budget was already so lean.

But then it was able to find budget cuts to make up for losses in sales tax income, which was projected to be the biggest income producer for the city's general fund.

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