Marfa council approves budget, puts a short-term rental ordinance on the docket

MARFA — At a city meeting Tuesday night, council began by unanimously adopting the annual budget, approving a property tax increase that will raise $63,926.96 in additional revenue (an 8.65% increase from last year’s budget,) and adopting the 2020 tax rate of $.42728 per $100 of taxable value, which is effectively a 12.70% decrease in the tax rate.

The mayor thanked council for their patience during the budget process, remarking, “It went pretty smoothly this year.”

In new business, the council discussed city priorities for the use of staff time and resources for the coming months. “What I’m talking about are what ordinances and issues you [the council] want me to work on when I’m not trying to put a fire out somewhere,” said City Attorney Teresa Todd, who put the item on the agenda.

While the council discussed the years-long process of updating the planning and zoning ordinance, they ultimately voted to have Todd work first on the short-term rental ordinance, which will look at how those rentals are regulated in town. The city hopes to have workshops and public feedback on the ordinance, similar to the process that revised the city’s animal ordinance last year.

Todd said the planning and zoning ordinance would likely take three to six months to be ready for a vote, whereas the short-term rentals will take around three months. Either way, Councilmember Buck Johnston said, it will be a new council after the November elections who will ultimately vote on the issues.

Council also moved forward with renting out a second section of the Marfa Activity Center, after agreeing to a lease with the Marfa Museum Thrift Store at the last council meeting.

Annette Gutierrez from the Rio Grande Council of Governments said her organization received funding from the Economic Development Administration to have a coordinator to directly address COVID, and they were looking for office space to station the rural coordinator.

“We’d like to lease office space for that coordinator position and we will be receiving a new agreement with workforce solutions and keep our part-time employees Sam Schonzeit and Robert Halpern in that office space,” Gutierrez explained.

Council agreed that they should occupy multiple offices rather than all sharing one, and offered a six-month contract to the COG for $500 monthly rent with utilities included.

City Manager Mandy Roane updated the council on the Abbot COVID-19 rapid testing machine, which The Texas Division of Emergency Management has agreed to cover the cost of for the city. In additional good news, TDEM will also cover any added costs the city has incurred from having to move the election due to COVID-19, saving the city a $6,000 expense.

Finally, Mayor Baeza asked the council to attend a special meeting on Thursday to hear from the Texas Department of Transportation about the latest plans for the traffic design in front of the Presidio County Courthouse. Initial plans suggested a roundabout on the south side of the courthouse, where Highland Avenue meets Lincoln, however Baeza said TxDoT has modified the concept and is looking into alternatives. The meeting will take place September 17 at 6 p.m. with a Zoom link available at