By Bill Spinks

The ad valorem property tax rate in the city of Waxahachie will drop two pennies from the previous year’s tax bill after the Waxahachie City Council formalized the new rate Tuesday night.

The council approved a series of ordinances adopting the tax rate, fees, and budgets for fiscal year 2020-21, which will begin on Oct. 1. Budgets for water and wastewater operations; the water treatment plant; Waxahachie Community Development Corp.; and funds for refuse service, hotel tax, and interest and sinking were approved.

"It’s been a five- or six-month endeavor for us all," city manager Michael Scott said, praising council members for their leadership and members of his staff for their work. "We have a fantastic staff here who’s really doing an incredible job."

The new fiscal year tax rate, which will also go into effect Oct. 1, was set at 66 cents per $100 valuation, a 2-cent drop from the current rate. Of that rate, 49.2 cents will be applied to maintenance and operations and 16.8 cents to interest and sinking.

The no-new-revenue rate, which the city is required to calculate because of new state legislation, is 63.04 cents. Because the city will be receiving more revenue despite the rate cut, the council is required to ratify the revenue increase by a vote because of new state legislation.

The 2020-21 budget will see an increase of more than $2 million in property tax revenues, even with the 2-cent drop in the rate. More than half of the increase is because of new property added to the city’s tax roll this year. Because the average taxable value for homeowners grew by almost $12,000, the average tax bill will rise by about $37 per year.

The total city budget will be $90.2 million, of which $45.4 million will go into the general fund for day-to-day city operations and will be funded by property taxes, sales taxes and user fees; and $28.7 million will go into water and wastewater and will be funded by monthly water bills. The remainder are restricted funds set aside for specific purposes, such as the Waxahachie Community Development Corp. fund, debt service, waste management and cemetery upkeep.

"I think we have a good budget this year," mayor David Hill said. "We’ll be able to get some streets done and some sewer and water projects that are going to be beneficial to this community and the quality of life. The council has done a good job and I appreciate their support on this budget. This is our community and this is the lifeblood of Waxahachie. This is what makes Waxahachie strong."

Other items

• The consent agenda, including approval of previous minutes and an amendment to a resolution to extend the FM 813 closure to Tuesday, Sept. 15, was approved.

• A request for a specific use permit at The Wash on Brown at 2201 Brown St. was approved. The new SUP will allow increased landscaping in lieu of a screening wall that had been on the original plan.

• Councilmembers approved a plat for seven residential lots on 14.5 acres of land in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. City planning director Shon Brooks said platting matters typically are handled at the Planning & Zoning level, but the applicant was asking for a waiver to not have water for fire suppression.

• A site plan review and development agreement for office buildings at 1340 and 1348 W. U.S. Highway 287 Bypass were approved.

• The council awarded bids to Reynolds Asphalt & Construction Co. for the 2020 street rehabilitation program at about $543,000 that will be paid through the maintenance and operations budget, and to Wilson Contractor Services LLC for construction of the Lower Mustang Creek Parallel Force Main at a cost of about $2.4 million that will come from a recently approved bond. Both bids were accompanied with a contingency.

• A service contract to Waste Connections was also awarded for the disposal of bio-solids from the wastewater treatment plant.

• An ordinance was amended whereby a chapter on "Peddlers" was removed and replaced by a chapter on "Solicitation Activities." City attorney Robert Brown said the new chapter abides by the state’s recognition of a citizen’s right to own property.

• Classified positions under Civil Service — i.e., police and fire personnel — were re-established by a vote of councilmembers. City manager Scott said the vote includes three additional firefighters, making a total force of 74 police officers and 64 firefighters.