The City of Sealy is currently $30,000,000 in debt. A grandiose accolade to current City Manager Lloyd Merrell about his “balanced budget” last month was confusing – numbers do not lie.
Certificates of obligation, which helped lead to this huge debt, were passed by the council, not the citizens of this community. The citizens, however, will have to cough up the money via increased taxes and reduced services.
There should be 120 days of city operating expenses readily available in the bank; this money also covers the pay of the City of Sealy employees. Less than half that amount is currently available. The last three years have been littered with multiple weather and health emergencies. This is a serious issue that should be handled immediately. Emergencies will continue to happen. City of Sealy employees work hard and should have this security.
Many incoming businesses are receiving numerous perks, including a quarter of a million dollars welcome package, and no city taxes for two years. Free sewer and water hook ups are being provided. These huge incentives are being based on sale tax money that is not in the bank. Perhaps the real icing on the cake came with the suggestion that drainage fees double for residents, while new businesses, including multiple apartment complexes, get a free two-year ride. Council found that taxpayers were not pleased, and the increase was amended to a smaller amount. This incident illustrates a growing concern that the council and administration are not representing the current residents … at all.
Assistant City Manager Warren Escovy is handing out building variances quite frequently, and he often approves the changes to building codes without council or planning commission input or approval, citing an ordinance that stipulates he can approve minor plating changes. But when a project will house 25 or more families, no changes to the adopted system are “minor,” especially to the single family homes that are affected.
Banking on money that might show up demonstrates a fiscal irresponsibility, and Sealy resident taxpayers are continuing to supplement this generosity. Online cheerleading from relatives and cohorts, and campaigning for a preferred mayoral candidate during office hours cannot erase the concerns that are increasing each day. Incidentally, Sealy was operating quite well before the emerging growth syndrome hit the town.
A new news group has appeared online praising the City of Sealy administration for its innovative tactics to improve “the quality of life” and to “save the city,” but the current city financial situation is anything but improved. The present administration is neglecting “saving the city” in favor of catering to new businesses who naturally line up for the $250,000 welcome and freebies that are handed out quite generously by EDC. It should be noted that established businesses that got much smaller grants to improve their establishments were recently told there is no money to fund these grants, and to not expect help in the next year.
Robert Worley has bragged about the 34 new businesses that are moving to this town, and his expectations for a 50% growth in Sealy in the next year. He “has never seen this kind of growth” in his 49 years in the business. Perhaps there is a reason for this not happening before. Have plans for the huge increases for education needs been addressed? Has the city management team improved the efficiency of the checks on buildings being erected during this growth process? The first new apartment project located on Schmidt Road next to single family homes has been riddled with problems. When residents asked to see records of checks on the building which should be happening on a regular basis to assure compliance with city ordinances, they were told that the city did not have time to check the projects “until they were finished.” This apartment complex is still not finished, and area residents have learned that it now sits several feet higher than the original plans indicated. The area is flood-prone, and the apartments are noncompliant. Now what?