Presidio City Council approves appraisal district budget, celebrates good news

PRESIDIO — At Monday night’s meeting, Presidio City Council signed off on this year’s proposed County Appraisal District budget and then received good news about the city’s police department and yearly audit. Mayor John Ferguson wasn’t present at this week’s meeting, so Mayor Pro Tempore John Razo filled in, steering discussion of technical topics and ending the meeting with some lighter fare. 

Cynthia Ramirez of the Presidio County Appraisal District kicked off the meeting with a presentation about her department’s proposed budget. Texas does not have a state property tax, so those taxes are determined and collected on the county level. The local appraisal district determines the value of property through a process that starts in January with a proposed appraisal value, considers protests in the spring and collects taxes in the fall with the start of the new fiscal year. 

Local “taxing units” — in other words, taxing entities that benefit from property taxes — have the opportunity to vote on each County Appraisal District budget because some of the tax revenue each year pays for their salaries and operating expenses. “We have to have the majority of those taxing entities approve my budget,” Ramirez explained. 

In Presidio County, the taxing units are the cities of Marfa and Presidio, Presidio and Marfa ISDs, Presidio County and the Big Bend Regional Hospital District. Ramirez has been making an effort to go to a budget-season meeting for all of these groups to field concerns and answer questions about what her office does. This year, she’s hoping for a 7% salary increase for her employees. 

Ramirez explained that the overall budget increase was a worthy investment because the cost of living in Presidio County — and nationwide — has gone up so much in the past few years. She had reached out to other appraisal districts in the area to see what they considered fair salaries. “We’re a little underpaid compared to what other appraisal districts in our area are getting paid,” she explained. 

She also explained that her office had to take on more responsibility and training in the wake of SB2, a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2019 that makes significant changes to the property tax system in Texas. The program rolled out in Texas’s larger counties in 2020, but smaller counties like Presidio didn’t have to start navigating these changes until last year. “We’re starting to get a little bit more responsibility regarding tax, tax rates and tax calculations,” she said. 

Mayor Pro Tempore John Razo thought that Ramirez’s requests were fair. “I know with inflation that everything has gone up, especially the cost to live in this area,” he said. Council voted unanimously to approve Ramirez’s request — the next entities on the list were Presidio ISD and Marfa ISD school boards, which considered the same presentation on Wednesday evening. 

To cap off Monday night’s meeting, City Administrator Pablo Rodriguez had a lot of good news to share with everyone in the audience. He said that the city’s auditing team had just come to town for their preliminary assessment and liked what they saw. “They pointed out some things that needed attention, and we’ve already started on those,” Rodriguez said. “This visit was positive, and they said we were very much improved.”

Rodriguez also announced that the Presidio Police Department had just hired a new recruit. Earlier this year, Police Chief Margarito Hernandez was concerned that low city salaries might result in the department having to shut down, but he was able to hire Manuel Losoya, a young veteran who had previous experience serving the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office and Sul Ross Police Department. 

Mayor Pro Tempore John Razo thanked Hernandez for his hard work in keeping the department afloat. “Thanks, Chief, for keeping it up,” he said.