The city of Hitchcock is facing a serious decision about its future as sales tax revenues continue a rapid decline.
The city in 2015 received about $2.38 million in sales tax revenue from the state’s comptroller office, records show. That number declined to $1.53 million in 2016 and down to $1.06 million this year with one month left to go, records show — marking a 55 percent decrease in a two-year span.
You don’t need to be a highly skilled mathematician to determine important services could soon find themselves in danger if this trend is not addressed.
One solution drawing fire is to expand industrial development along FM 2004. But as with anything of this nature, opinions are varied on how the city should proceed.
“I’m 100 percent for growing the city of Hitchcock,” Hitchcock resident Steve Smith said. “However, the avenue they have chosen to do that is the wrong avenue.”
And therein lies the rub — what is the best way forward to the community? While everyone sees the problem, consensus on how to address a solution is conflicted.
Several members of the city commission, including Mayor Dorothy Childress, believe the solution is in moving toward what advocates consider to be a reasonable plan to build long-term sales tax revenues.
Hitchcock’s planning and zoning committee approved a new application for rezoning recently and officials are working with other local businesses to expand operations along FM 2004, said Sabrina Schwertner, executive director of economic development and foreign trade zone for the Hitchcock Industrial Development Corp.
The Hitchcock Industrial Development Corp. has worked to recruit businesses for about two years, has made several company shortlists and is working with multiple prospects, Schwertner said.
But while the group believes it is moving in the right direction, others want to see more tangible plans before signing off.
“I’m not opposed to the development, but I want a master plan going five to 10 years to see where the city needs to grow,” Commissioner Monica Cantrell said. “I’m not sure what they are bringing in is giving enough thought as to how it might affect future growth and development.”
Tensions were evident during a public hearing in November about city plans to rezone three parcels along FM 2004 for industrial use as residents opposed a plan to turn the area into an industrial corridor to attract businesses.
“A lot of the town doesn’t know what’s going on until the letters notifying landowners of zoning changes bring it to our attention,” Cantrell said. “But once the letters arrive, they have already been in the planning stage for a while. I’m not sure the common voice is being heard.”
We believe there is an important urgency at play here — one requiring everyone to move as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. It goes without saying discussions should always be open and the public should be engaged and in attendance at any zoning meetings. Additionally, decisions should be made by residents and those elected to represent them. But under no circumstances should progress-stunting noise substitute for action when the siren of the rapidly declining sales tax revenues is blaring across the community.
• Leonard Woolsey