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Following a heated debate Monday evening, December 28, Pearsall city councilors cast a split vote to fund and hire a program coordinator for a housing assistance program.
“There is no budgeted amount right now,” City Manager Federico Reyes said of the position. “We hope to get reimbursed by the CARES Act funding and help people with housing issues.”
Reyes urged councilors to delay the start of the program until the city receives reimbursement from the CARES Act. He said that in the event the city is declared ineligible for reimbursement,
funds for the program would come from the general fund.
Reyes said that the Community Council of South Texas had recently implemented a housing assistance program but had exhausted all its funds.
“You are totally wrong,” Councilor Roland Segovia said. “That is a different program. We submitted an application to the state, the state said it was no good and to find other funding.”
According to Segovia, the city submitted the salaries of officers at the police department for reimbursement under the CARES Act and, should the city be awarded the reimbursement, the monies would be put into the general fund.
“It is called a wash,” the councilor said. “I feel very comfortable that we will get reimbursed. I am looking for ten thousand [for the program], three thousand to pay someone Monday through Friday at twenty dollars an hour for thirty days at thirty hours a week.”
Councilor Davina Rodriguez said stipulations should be drafted to ensure families awarded the assistance would not be evicted. She proposed having the landlord deduct late fees and if the individual owed more than what was awarded it was their responsibility to pay.
“If we give them fifteen hundred dollars and they owe two thousand they need to pay the five hundred so they do not get evicted,” Rodriguez said.
Finance Director Santos Alarcon told councilors the city has submitted $548,000 of the $568,000 for reimbursement. The remaining $20,000 was exhausted after an earlier council decision to extend funding of the COVID-19 Lifeline Program until February at a price of $27,000.
“I have submitted for five hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars in reimbursements and there have been no issues yet,” the finance director said. “I would conservatively commit with those savings. If we have rejections there is an appeal process but we have not had any rejections yet.”
Alarcon said the city ended the fiscal year down 30 percent in sales tax revenues and that he foresees budget shortfalls, noting the savings would be “nice.”
“Thirteen thousand is not going to put a big dent into our general fund,” Segovia said. “My motion is to use thirteen thousand from the general fund and hire project coordinator Mr. Reynaldo Trevino.”
Records filed at City Hall show no application or advertisement for the position.
Councilors quizzed Reyes over who the program coordinator would report to.
“It is an independent program,” Reyes said. “There is not city oversight. That person makes the decisions as relates to the program.”
Questions remain over whether the council has the authority to hire a city employee.
According to Section 3.06 of the city’s Home Rule Charter, neither the mayor, the city council, nor any of its committees or members shall dictate or attempt to dictate the appointment of any person to, or removal from, office or employment by the city manger or any of the city manager’s subordinates, or in any way interfere in the appointment of officers and employees in the departments of administrative service.