The group organizing the petition turned in 496 signatures, securing its place on the ballot.
Now the prospect will go to the voters.
If a vote to disincorporate passes, the city’s responsibilities will fall to the larger Parker County jurisdiction.
According to those pushing this initiative, the goal of disincorporation comes on the heels of years of lackluster city services, including issues with their police department and city maintenance departments. These issues include sudden officer resignations and unmaintained city roads.
Proponents for disincorporation also claim their city tax rates are “unreasonably high” and that those funds are misappropriated. From 2016 to 2020, Reno property tax revenue increased by more than $150,000. Since 2017, the property tax rate has been kept constant, but rising property values result in higher tax bills. When adopting the tax rate, city officials have the appraisal information in front of them.
The alleged lackluster service from the city’s police department focused on turnover in 2021 when multiple officers resigned, leaving then-chief Tony Simmons as the only officer presiding over the city of 3,000.
The city normally has four full-time officers working in its police department.
Shortly after the resignations of these officers, Simmons and the city mutually agreed to part ways.
”During my time as mayor I came to the realization that continuing to fund the City of Reno did not seem like a sustainable thing,” former Reno mayor Eric Hunter, who is heading up the petition effort, told The Texan.
“We can’t continue to adequately maintain our roads and physical infrastructure while still keeping taxes low. The way the city council has been mismanaged, they were going to run us off the road. And I thought, why can’t we just be an unincorporated community?”
About the police department issues, Hunter said, “We had a police department that was well-trained and experienced, and that council ran them off.”
“They went and got a whole new police department with limited training.”
Hunter said he’s been assured by the Parker County Sheriff’s Office that it would take over law enforcement duties and that the increase in response times will be minimal after disincorporation.
Petitioners believe that the benefits of using Parker County’s services far outweigh the prospect of continuing to fund and support the City of Reno.
In addition to losing their city police department, Reno will have to enlist a new company to take over their city water utility. Parker County would presumably take over street and city maintenance.
This is not the first time disgruntled Texas residents have pushed for the disincorporation of their city. In 1987, the small Gulf Coast city of Crystal Beach voted to dissolve itself, opting for an unincorporated status within their county. After the municipality was dissolved, there were some transitional pains like finding a new waste management service and the layoff of the 12-officer police force, but the impacts were mostly negligible.
The largest example of an unincorporated Texas city is The Woodlands. They have enjoyed rapid growth in the past 20 years while maintaining their unique status as an unincorporated township. Their population is quickly approaching 120,000 residents.
Last year, voters in The Woodlands rejected incorporation by a two-to-one margin The proposal faced large opposition from both citizens and the business community.
Reno voters will decide on May 6, 2023 whether to continue on the current course or follow the same path as Crystal Beach and The Woodlands.
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Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.