Procedural hiccup halts city homestead exemption

MARFA – City council unanimously voted to pass an ordinance that would give a homestead tax exemption to over 200 Marfa homeowners this Monday, but their vote was all for nothing. An error on the agenda resulted in the nullification of the council vote, rendering the Monday special meeting moot. Now they will meet again tomorrow at 12pm in the Casner Room to reconsider a homestead exemption.

The ordinance that council assembled would provide a 10% tax exemption for those who claim homestead in Marfa and a flat $5,000 exemption for any residences valued below $50,000. The council was eager to take action on the new ordinance, because the exemption would actually be able to go into effect for next year’s tax assessments if they act fast. One quirk of a homestead exemption is that once instated, it can never be removed — making this a very important decision for the city.

However, zero members of the public turned out Monday to provide input, so the meeting marched forward, with Councilmember Buck Johnston motioning to approve the ordinance as presented by City Attorney Teresa Todd. Councilmember Raul Lara seconded it, and Councilmembers Irma Salgado and Natalie Melendez joined the ayes, unanimously approving the motion. The meeting was adjourned, six minutes after it began.

Only then did it come to light that their vote on the agenda was not actually allowed. The agenda item read, “Discussion regarding the approval of Ordinance 19-04 concerning a homestead tax exemption for the City of Marfa.”

Procedural rules require agenda items to say the phrase “with action” if they are going to be voted on. Although Attorney Todd had revised the agenda to allow the city to take action, ultimately an older version of the agenda was errantly posted at City Hall and was used at the Monday meeting.

An agenda must be posted 72 hours in advance, so council will now have another special meeting on Friday at 12pm in the Casner Room, this time “with action.” Councilmember Johnston hoped more members of the public would be in attendance to provide their input and feedback. Attorney Todd said that although it is inconvenient to reconvene, “This is important. We want to do this right.”