Toward the end of a two-night review of the proposed budget submitted to the Stephenville City Council by City Administrator Mark Kaiser, Council Member Pat Shelbourne suggested Tuesday that the proposed tax rate be revised from 44.5 cents per $100 valuation to 46 cents.
“The proposed tax rate for this budget is 6.84 percent above the effective tax rate,” he said. “A tax rate of 46 cents is still below last year’s tax rate and would bring in about $103,000 difference in revenue.”
He stated by his calculation, that increase would be only about $15 a year on a $100,000 home.
“I would like to stay below the roll back rate but receive what we are entitled to,” Shelbourne said. “When we cut rates, we will pay for it down the road. It is up to us to have the courage to make this decision.”
But Council Member Alan Nash took exception to Shelbourne’s recommendation, saying it was “mind-boggling” to him that anyone would propose a tax rate increase that is two and a half times the rate of inflation.
“We need to have the courage to operate within our limited income, adjusted for inflation,” he said. “People can’t afford to live in their own homes because governments take what they can.”
During the discussion of proposed new programs and enhanced services, some programs presented for the next fiscal year were questioned and some council members proposed moving some of the projects proposed after the next year be moved into the current budget.
Council member Barry Ratliff expressed concern that $1 million was allocated for a new swimming pool while nothing was allocated for the senior citizens center. Other members questioned making a decision about a swimming pool prior to an architect’s report on new facilities for a recreation center.
All council members present agreed to delete the funding assistance for the Meals on Wheels Program, stating that, while it is a good program, it is a charitable program and the city is not in a position to support all “worthwhile charities.”
Council member Nancy Hunter proposed that funding for sidewalks be included in the current budget; however, after some discussion it was the consensus of the council that funding should be postponed pending further discussion and development of a plan.
Some council members also thought the addition of an assistant city administrator should be included in the budget. Nash suggested that the addition of an assistant city administrator was premature in light of the recent hiring of a finance director. He also said he would not be comfortable adding an administrative position but not increasing the number of police and fire fighters.
On Monday, Kaiser reviewed the proposed budget, which totals $27.75 million for all funds. Approximately $15.9 million is for continued operations, $2.9 million for debt services and $8.45 million for capital improvement projects and equipment.
He also proposed a tax rate decrease of 2 cents per $100 valuation, lowering the tax rate from 46.5 cents to 44.5 cents per $100 property valuation.
A public hearing on the proposed tax rate is expected to be set for Sept. 4 at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Stephenville City Council.