Late last week city officials in Odessa got a request submitted to the Texas Attorney General’s office seeking an opinion ruling on whether Ector County must give up a substantial amount of sales tax revenue that voters recently approved giving to the county.
The letter, submitted by State Senator Charles Perry’s (R-Lubbock) office, asks the attorney general to rule on several questions of fact and law surrounding the ongoing battle between the two local governments on who gets the sales tax revenue.
According to someone within Perry’s office, attorneys representing the City of Odessa reached out to their office to enlist their help on the tax issue. The letter seeks a ruling on a number of questions including whether the county properly gave notice to hold the tax election, whether the newly created sales tax revenue district should exclude the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) and all land annexed by the city in the future – and whether voters understood the revenue could go to the city thusly creating an enforceable contract with the county.
The Ector County Assistance District was created with approval from voters in the November 6, 2018 General Election and was created to levy and collect sales taxes from all areas outside city jurisdiction.
During and immediately after the election however, the city council raced to push through a forced annexation of the city’s ETJ and expand their official jurisdiction into areas of the county that also generate a large portion of new sales tax revenue.
The opinion request letter written by city attorneys claims that the forced annexation was a voluntary annexation done at the request of property owners within the area.
The forced annexation actually brought strong push back from residents and property owners, who spoke out against the annexation during city council meetings at that time.
Coincidentally, the move by city officials in seeking an attorney general opinion letter comes on the eve of early voting for the November General Election – where a majority of the city council is up for grabs.
A number of the non-incumbent contenders for the council positions have directly addressed the issue, stating a consistent theme that they believe the voters understood the sales tax revenue was to be dedicated to the county, not the city and oppose the move to take the revenue.
With the potential for the upcoming election results to seat a new council who opposes efforts to take the revenue, some have questioned whether this move represents a last minute “Hail Mary” to secure the sales tax before those efforts can be stopped.
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