WAXAHACHIE

A suggestion by one board member to lower the existing tax rate by a penny was met with opposition at Wednesday’s Waxahachie City Council budget meeting.

Council members will instead move forward planning the budget with no change to the current property tax rate of $0.68 per $100 evaluation.

It was the first-term councilwoman Melissa Olson who presented the decreased tax rate as a way to provide residents with a little bit of financial relief. She noted one reason for the request was to offset housing appraisals that continue to climb across the city.

“I would still like to see a decrease in the adopted tax rate because I feel that we could do one and get the people some tax relief,” Olson said. “Even though it would be a small one it would show that we are trying to help and not affect the quality of life that much.”

Mayor Kevin Strength stated he understands the reasons for wanting to lower the rate. However, he does not think it wouldn’t be enough to help the average person and could negatively impact the city.

“We have been able to fix streets, build a new police department and build a fire station,” Strength said. “By taking it down a penny, you are not really helping anyone.”

Strength added the reduction would amount to around $4.50 a month on a $250,000 home.

Councilman Chuck Beatty shared Strength’s feeling about the idea of a tax reduction.

“I have been through an economic downturn before where we had to reduce staff, and I don’t want to experience it again. Rising rates are even harder because people don’t want what their taxes to go up,” Beatty said. “In keeping the rate the same, it won’t affect the level of service for residents or staffing levels.”

Fellow council member Mary Lou Shipley stated the city is going to have more income from taxes because it is growing, but it is also going to have more expenses.

“I think the tax rate remaining the same is appropriate,” Shipley said. “We have a lot of responsibilities with the growth that is happening here in Waxahachie and we need to be sure to meet those responsibilities.”

Shipley added she believes the proposed budget keeps the city moving in the right direction.

Mayor Pro Tem David Hill stated last year a large number of new houses added to the community, and it is the city’s responsibility to provide for those residents.

“The average person would not notice the decrease, and it would not impact their daily life,” Hill said. “I understand that people are saying that they are overtaxed, but we are a growing community.”

BUDGET

The Waxahachie City Council is proposing no tax increase in its upcoming budget that will start Oct. 1. City leaders look to add additional personnel, replace equipment, as well as make improvements and upgrades to existing facilities.

Revenue in the general fund for the upcoming fiscal year is estimated at $41,080,900 including transfers. It is anticipated that revenues will come in ahead of budgeted expenses by $960,584 with transfers into the general fund. Expenses are estimated at $40,120,316 million, which includes $761,000 in service enhancements.

Strength feels the budget helps to manage the existing level of growth and plan for the future.

“I think that it is an excellent budget and the staff is really kicking it up. It is what we need to see because are getting overrun," Strength said. "They are catching up with the growth."

NEW POSITIONS, PROJECTS AND EQUIPMENT

The council hopes to add several staff positions to this year’s budget to help accommodate the growth the city is experiencing.

The police department is looking to add three new officers, four dispatch supervisors, and a dedicated janitor for the police station. The department is also looking to a civilian position of a public service officer. The public service officer will work in the records division and will assist residents that come into the station.

The department has requested four new Chevrolet Tahoes, each valued at about $58,000.

The fire department requested to add three additional firefighters. Though, the positions could be funded by a grant.

Some of the other positions looking to be added include a public works manager, a maintenance worker for the parks and recreation department, a position in the city marshals office, a wastewater treatment plant operator, and moving a part-time receptionist position to full time at the senior center.

Projects identified by city staff to be considered include roof work a the senior center, phase three of improvements at Lee Penn Park, and upgrades to landscaping at the Chautauqua Auditorium. The city is also exploring the possibility of partnering with the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office for a shared firing range.

Beatty stated the budget provides residents with a lot while not putting a burden on them.

“I think that this budget is more progressive than we have done in the past. By the same token, I think that we are lean and mean. We are really frugal were we spend our money right now,” Beatty explained. “As long as we maintain where we are I think that it is a good budget. We are not increasing it, but we are increasing a lot of the services.”