No one addresses council during Tuesday's public hearing

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Despite missing a Sept. 15 deadline to accept the budget mandated by the city charter, the Alice City Council praised the finance department and the city's administration for their work on the Fiscal Year 2007-2008 budget during a public hearing Tuesday morning.

Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez, in comments echoed by the entire city council, praised Finance Department personnel Tina Reyes and Matthew Ramon for their work on the budget, and expressed her support for Finance Director Hector Hinojosa.

"I just want to commend Tina and Matthew for providing Mr. Hinojosa with the information he needed," Saenz-Lopez said. "Thank you for your professionalism, your diligence and your hard work."

Hinojosa has stated he is responsible for missing the deadline required by the charter.

"I know there are some people out there who criticize us. We're always going to be scrutinized. Remember we live in a glass bowl," Saenz-Lopez said. "I just want to make the community aware that this is the council's budget and nobody else's."

The Alice City Charter mandates the council must vote to approve the budget no later than Sept. 15, or the budget will be adopted as presented by the city manager. The council failed to vote by Sept. 15 this year, and the city manager's budget was adopted on Saturday. The council is expected to vote to adopt the budget in a regularly scheduled meeting Monday in order to be in compliance with state law, which requires the budget be adopted by the council no later than Sept. 30.

No citizens addressed the council during the public hearing Tuesday.

Hinojosa gave a final report on the budget to the council Monday, in which he indicated that funding for the Alice Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Alice/Jim Wells County Economic Development corporation had been extended until the end of the year, and additional funding would be withheld until concerns the city's administration has over the two entities' expenditures are addressed.

The Alice Convention and Visitors Bureau is scheduled to meet on Thursday to address those concerns, and the city council has been invited to attend that meeting.

City Manager Albert Uresti said the city made the decision to only provide funding until the end of the year to protect taxpayers' money.

"I think there's a belief out there that the city is going after the Chamber and the EDC, but that could not be further from the truth," Uresti said. "We just want to protect the city and be able to answer to our taxpayers."