Salado petition

John Newman waits Saturday at a pop-up petition signing event on Royal Street in Salado.

A flier was mailed to every registered voter in the village of Salado, calling for the dissolving of the community’s 2000 incorporation.

“The time has come to dissolve the incorporation and return Salado to the economic freedom and limited self-rule that made this village prosper for 150 years prior to incorporation,” the flier said.

John Newman, a 27-year Salado resident, consulted on the flier’s distribution, and highlighted taxes as just one of the drawbacks of the community’s 20-year incorporation.

“Community leaders, (in 2000), instilled fear that the prosperous village would be annexed by Belton, which would collect municipal property taxes, franchise fees and sales tax,” their flier said. “At the time of the vote, Salado citizens were promised that the village government would be funded by sales tax alone.”

This collective of residents is upset that this original “pro-mise” was not upheld when Salado leaders introduced an ad valorem tax of 4.5 cents per $100 valuation — a rate that has since grown to 57.52 cents per $100 valuation.

But Village Administrator Don Ferguson challenged residents to find an incorporated city in Texas that has not seen a change in its tax rate in a 20-year timeframe.

“Show me any city in the state of Texas that incorporated, and I challenge you to see if that tax rate is still the same 20 years later,” he said. “It’s just not the case.”

However, Ferguson said it is still important for government officials to be mindful of residents’ concerns — regardless of their validity.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with citizens doing what they’re doing right now … as far as submitting and circulating that petition,” he said. “That’s their right, and I think we as officials should always be sensitive and open in trying to actively understand those concerns.”

Despite the petition calling for the abolition of Salado’s incorporation, Ferguson stressed how they should not be afraid of a movement of this nature.

“We need to listen, and I think it’s important to understand that we as public officials need to educate (ourselves) on this issue,” Ferguson said. “Should this community go through an election and vote to abolish this government, it is important to understand where that leaves Salado, Texas.”

Ferguson wants residents to fully comprehend the changes that would happen to the available resources in Salado if they are thrown into the mix with other unincorporated Bell County residents.

“(Bell County’s) resources, much like our resources, can be limited,” Ferguson said. “Right now, you can have a police officer at your doorstep in an emergency situation within a minute or two. The Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have as many deputies.”

He said this not a criticism of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, but rather the reality at hand.

“They have a large area to cover, so their response times might not be as frequent,” Ferguson said.

But Ferguson emphasized how zoning likely would be the greatest community aspect they could lose control over — an issue he said oftentimes does not matter until it impacts an individual personally.

“Counties don’t have zoning authority. They only have subdivision authority, and they don’t have land-use control from that standpoint,” he said. “So zoning is a big issue that I think a lot of times we take for granted and don’t understand until we find ourselves in that position.”

Bell County Commissioner Bobby Whitson said many Salado residents have mentioned to him receiving the flier in the mail.

“The (abolition of the incorporation) was tried a couple years back and failed miserably,” Whitson told the Telegram. “This is my own personal opinion, but I think most of Salado thinks that’s going to happen again. They’ve had a problem with (Salado) leadership for 20 years … ever since it started as a village.”

Newman, 60, said they had a “pop-up petition signing event” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 120 Royal St. in Salado.

In order to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot, more than 400 signatures must be gathered within the next two weeks.