Council targets tax hike
Mayor Allen Owen and the Missouri City Council recently reviewed proposed FY 2019 budget documents and next year’s property tax rate which includes a three-cent increase over last year’s rate. The FY 2019 property tax rate is the highest adopted within the last ten years, according to agenda documents.
The proposed property tax rate totals $.63 per $100 of property valuation and represents a three-cent increase from last year’s rate of $.60 per $100 of valuation. Of the total, $.46 will fund maintenance and operations expenditures (basic day-to-day expenses) and $.17 will be used for the city’s debt payments.
According to agenda documents, next year’s budget will generate a 9.2 percent increase in property tax revenues expected to total $44,671,006. Total revenues are expected to total $136,436,783, an increase of roughly $18.5 million over last years’ total revenues of $117,918.528.
Expenditures are expected to total $125,891.352, an increase over last year’s expenditures totaling $118,502,517.
Last year, Hurricane Harvey-related expenditures created a direct cost to the city of over $900,000, city manager Anthony Snipes told Mayor Owen and the council at a workshop meeting held Monday, August 27. On the front end, we asked our departments to do their best to cut their budget by roughly three percent, which ultimately resulted in a savings of roughly $2.1 million,” city manager Anthony Snipes told Mayor Owen and the city council Monday, Austin 27.
Snipes said no jobs were cut and the budget decrease was created via decreasing the IT budget and fleet replacement costs., among other things.
Among the capital fund expenditures budgeted for next year is $1 million for architectural designs for a new fire station to serve the Lake Olympia area.
“A million dollars for just the design of the fire station?” Mayor Owen asked. “How much different is this one going to be than the one we just built in Sienna? We should use the same set of plans we just paid a half-a-million dollars for. Why do we keep paying architects this kind of money to design a fire station that looks just like the one we just built?”
“We haven’t been happy with the design we have. Quite frankly, it hasn’t worked very well and this one will function different that the ones we have today,” assistant city manager Bill Atkinson said.
In total, next year’s budget includes approximately $5.1 million for design and construction of fire station 6.
Other capital improvement expenditures include $2.55 million for drainage improvements, $405,000 for a new roof for the public safety department, $284,000 to expand the public safety department, $10,809.957 for road and transportation improvements, roughly $3 million for sidewalk repairs and $30,890,000 for utilities improvements.
The proposed budget also includes $200,000 for improvements and upgrades to the animal shelter, $1.2 million for IT and fleet equipment, $2.5 million for new landscaping and beautification at city hall and along Texas Parkway and Cartwright Road, $25,000 to fund a study of future improvements at the city golf course and $250,000 to offset expected increases for employees’ health care costs.
Mayor Owen questioned the cost of benefits and health care for retired city workers, which cost the city roughly $300,000 annually. Council member Jerry Wyatt suggested the city discontinue offering benefits to retirees who received Medicare.
“We don’t need to be paying insurance for people who have Medicare,” Wyatt said.
City manager Snipes said he was planning to have a benefits consultant come and talk to the council about the potential changes in the coming months.
“We have made some huge cuts to our budget. We can’t hire people we need to hire. We’re making sacrifices and they (retired city workers) need to make sacrifices too,” Mayor Owens said.
No changes to retiree benefits were included in the proposed budget but city officials agreed to discuss the issue in the future.