August 31, 2022 1139 PM
PRESIDIO — Monday’s city council meeting was short and sweet and to the point, but the city made a lot of progress in 31 minutes. The city approved the proposed budget and tax rate as posted at City Hall and in the Presidio International, and passed a final reading of a short-term rentals ordinance. To round out the meeting, the city also approved the Presidio Police Department’s proposal for funds through the statewide Operation Lone Star program.
The process for setting the city’s budget and tax rates each year is slightly different than how other types of ordinances are passed and is designed for maximum transparency — if the proposed rates are wildly different from previous years, the state Tax Code allows voters to petition for an election. Monday’s meeting was the second in a series of public hearings on the issue. This year’s budget anticipates an increase of $55,717 in property tax revenue; $10,112 of that figure will come from new properties added to the tax rolls. Both measures passed unanimously with no public comments.
Next on the docket, the city approved a final reading of a proposed short-term rental ordinance. The ordinance sets a protocol for registering short-term rentals through online platforms like Airbnb and VRBO with the city. It includes certain safety precautions — like designating a local emergency contact and requiring yearly inspections. The ordinance also requires that short-term rentals pay into the city’s hotel occupancy (HOT) tax.
Hotels in city limits are currently required to pay the tax, but the city hadn’t yet passed measures requiring online vacation rentals to do the same. As the city’s tourism industry grows, so will revenue from HOT tax, which funds tourism initiatives and community events through the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mayor John Ferguson welcomed the change. “It makes it a level playing field,” he said. “If hotels are required to charge a tax and then somebody can rent out their property without a tax, it’s not fair.”
City Administrator Pablo Rodriguez explained that the online platforms can automatically collect tax, so the state had already been collecting HOT tax from rentals in Presidio — once the new tax rolls are established, the city can do the same. The only task left to accomplish before the ordinance can take effect is for the city’s legal team to draft an application for rental owners hoping to be officially registered — under the new ordinance, rental owners who fail to do so can be charged with fines up up to $2,000.
To round out the meeting, the city approved the Presidio Police Department’s proposal for Operation Lone Star funds. Operation Lone Star is a program started by Governor Greg Abbott to boost funding for local law enforcement along the border. The City of Presidio missed out on the last round of funding in 2021, but is hoping to cash out this year. “We’re looking at it in a good way,” said Presidio Police Chief Margarito Hernandez. “We’re a small community, but we have the border.”
Hernandez explained that his staff is sometimes asked to help Border Patrol with their operations — and vice versa. The two agencies help each other navigate the unique challenges of policing a border community. He’s hoping that the funds will go to additional vehicles so that the city doesn’t have to max out their fleet. “Right now, thank God, it’s kind of quiet,” he said. “But if it gets to a point where we have to help Border Patrol again, we won’t have to use one of the two vehicles we drive now.”