Denton City Hall exterior

Denton City Hall 

Denton’s credit collections practices will get one more round of scrutiny this week as the City Council puts the final touches on the fiscal year 2019-20 budget.

Back-to-back City Council meetings this week will end with two public hearings Tuesday night. The council is seeking feedback on both next year’s budget and the proposed tax rate to support it: 59.0454 cents per $100 valuation.

Tuesday’s agenda also includes an update from customer service staff on the new “pay-as-you-go” program for utility bills, including the effect it has on delinquent accounts.

The new program helps customers who want to more closely manage their utility bills. While it costs an extra $8 per month, the program has none of the other fees associated with a traditional, credit-based account. The new program helps customers who are tight on cash avoid amassing big balances with past-due amounts, late fees and other charges associated with credit-based accounts. The program could eventually lower the city’s noncollectable debt from past-due utility bills.

The council is also expected to discuss its nomination to the Denton Central Appraisal District Board of Directors on Tuesday afternoon. Such nominations have been a perfunctory matter in the past but take on new urgency this year.

First, the Texas Legislature considered bills this year meant to put more distance between the appraisal districts and the government entities they serve. One bill was passed and is forcing Rudy Durham to step down as Lewisville’s mayor or lose his job as the Denton district’s chief appraiser.

Another bill would have forbidden dual service by elected officials, but it didn’t become law. The potential for conflict in that dual service remains a concern for many— council member John Ryan has previously supported independent nominees for the board and has said he will do so again.

Second, the district recently sued the Texas Attorney General’s Office to block the release of documents related to an investigation into its management practices, citing in part a U.S. Department of Justice interest in the matter. The lawsuit was triggered by what otherwise appeared to be a routine open-records request. The federal law enforcement agency has not indicated whether its interest in the district’s management practices is civil or criminal.

The lawsuit was filed June 5, and there have been no new actions recorded in the case since a Travis County district judge signed a motion to seal court documents in the case at the end of July.

The back-to-back meetings begin with a luncheon meeting Monday between the City Council and the Economic Development Partnership Board. They resume at 1 p.m. Tuesday with a council work session and continue with the council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

More information on Monday’s and Tuesday’s agenda can be found on the city’s website, cityofdenton.com, by following the “agendas” tab.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.

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