CONVERSE — Residents of several unincorporated northeast Bexar County communities recently got an overview of the benefits they would receive if the city annexed them.
Meanwhile, several folks shared concerns about a rise in property taxes and code-compliance issues during the first of a series of public hearings before the measure goes on the ballot May 2.
Voters in Dover, Fields of Dover, Meadowbrook and Parc at Escondido will decide whether to become a part of Converse.
Up to 2,400 homes in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction could be added to the tax rolls.
The Legislature in 2017 gave the electorate in a city’s ETJ the right to vote on whether to be annexed.
Adding property-tax revenue is not a key element to taking in the unincorporated areas, said Assistant City Manager Manny Longoria. Rather, the objective is to reduce crime and enforce codes in those underserved communities.
An example of a troubled community needing attention after years of neglect cited by Longoria is The Glen.
“Those neighborhoods decline, and you get all the other issues of crime,” he said. “And, all of us in the region get impacted. It’s important for (those proposed annexed places) to have municipal services we think for the continued sustainment of the city. It’s important that they are under some form of municipal government.”
The Feb. 19 public hearing took place at Elolf Elementary School.
To sway attendees, city officials provided a list of benefits property owners would see if they opted to be annexed, including enhanced police and fire protection, full emergency medical services, street repair and maintenance, and enhanced garbage services.
Law-enforcement protection would be provided using a ratio of one officer per 500 residents. Bexar County deputies patrol there today.
The cost of those services might likely trigger an increase in property taxes, but the hike depends on several factors including appraisals and exemptions, officials said.
For example, a nonexempt homeowner with a residence valued at $150,000 could see a monthly tax increase of $46.98. Yet, a homeowner with an equally priced dwelling housing either a veteran, someone over 65, or eligible for a homestead exemption would pay $35.90 more a month.
Converse’s current property-tax rate is 49 cents per $100 valuation.
Prospects of escalated property taxes would be a major inconvenience for Dover resident Mary Ann Martinez-Mathis, who has lived there since 2003.
She said she’s embroiled in a battle with the Bexar Appraisal District over a rise in her property taxes based on a patio enclosure attached to her neighbor’s home.
“(Raising taxes) is not doing justice,” Martinez-Mathis noted.
She has witnessed the decline of her neighborhood following years of abandonment, she added.
According to her, there are vacant houses with busted windows and animals residing in them, with no action taken to address the problems.
“People don’t care anymore because nothing’s being done,” she said.
Councilwoman Kate Silvas favors serving the unincorporated areas. However, she prefers the city acts in a “fiscally responsible” manner.
The town can barely support its own needs, having only four months of cash reserves in its coffers, she said.
Despite her stance, Silvas voted at a Feb. 1 City Council meeting to place the proposed annexation before voters in May.
“It is irresponsible in my opinion,” she said in describing Converse’s planned takeover. “Extending our resources beyond (the town’s) abilities is not in the best interests of the citizens, whether they are existing or additional citizens.”