Several residents continued to voice concerns about the rise in property taxes at Tuesday’s Waxahachie City Council meeting, despite councilmembers proposing to keep the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal the same as last.
The current proposed budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, projects the city's tax rate to remain at $0.68 per $100 valuation.
Melissa Olson, a council member, previously proposed to cut the tax rate by a penny to provide residents during the budget workshops. Mayor Kevin Strength stated at that time the reduction wouldn’t be enough to help the average person and would have a negative impact on the city's ability to serve residents.
Mike Lee, a resident, told the council it is difficult at times to absorb the additional property tax placed on his home each year.
“We are a single income. In the last two years, my house’s value has gone up $30,000. Ellis County is appraising these houses almost to the maximum value each year,” Lee said. “We have had to come up with extra money to pay for the increase. We need to decrease the tax rate to make it more economical for the people that are living here.”
Alan Fox, a resident, shared Lee’s concerns about the impact the rising property tax has on the community. He encouraged the council to adopt the current budget but look at ways to build in a tax relief component for the following year.
“It has been said to reduce by a penny. For me, that is $25. Keep that $25. Don’t do a rate that is superficial,” Fox said. “If you want to make a difference make the reduction a nickel or a dime because we do have people who are struggling here to make ends meet.”
Fox suggested the city look to create a program to freeze property taxes for residents at a certain amount.
Silvia Colson, another resident, told the council several cities in the area — like Wiley and Rowlett — have been able to reduce property taxes for their residents. She encouraged the board to “follow the lead of others” in making a tax cut a reality.
Waxahachie resident Lisa Bowen echoed Colson’s feelings, stating even a small reduction would mean a lot.
“I ask you to consider tax relief. Even a little bit helps us,” Bowen said. “Please just consider it and consider the citizens for a moment.
Fort Worth resident Joe Palmer told the council stated they still have time to make adjustments to the budget, without making sacrifices to city services like fire and police.
City Manager Michael Scott stated the continued growth in the city has placed more demands on services and infrastructure.
“I think that no one really likes paying taxes, but I do think that as a growing city as we are we have got population continuing to move to the area, we have got infrastructure that needs to be expanded, and greater demands on public safety,” Scott said. “We came up with a five-year plan and a plan to address streets, staffing needs, and everything else to stay up with the growth. Council feels like it needs to stick to our plans.”
Scott explained the increased property tax burden is coming from the Ellis Appraisal District, not the city. He noted that concerns about the tax rate need to be addressed with the appraisal district. The city makes up a small portion of the overall property tax bill with is composed of several groups that include Waxahachie ISD and Ellis County.
Mayor Pro Tem David Hill stated he understands residents' concerns but feels the current rate is necessary to maintain services.
“We would love to tell everyone that would move to Waxahachie that we don’t tax, but we do. We have tried to minimize it. We haven’t gone up in seven years on our tax rate,” Hill said. “The appraisal rates have gone up, but we don’t handle appraisal rates. You can protest the rate increase by going to the adjustment board. A lot of people don’t even know that and think that they have just got to pay it.”
Hill added the tax rate has allowed the city to keep up with the needs of the community.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
The council approved to deny a request to create a four-home subdivision in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction on the corner of Old Boyce Road and Wilson Road.
Residents expressed concerns that new homes, which would lack access to fire hydrants, would create dangerous conditions. The existing two-inch water line cannot support a hydrant.
The Ellis County Commissioners Court previously approved plans for the project.
Jason Shelby, a resident, stated homes were put at a distance from each other to prevent a fire from spreading. He noted by lessening the distance the new home increase the fire danger to others.