Want to pay more to fix streets? Leaders wrestle with tax increase

HARLINGEN — If there’s a property tax increase, the additional money likely would go to fix streets.

That’s because the condition of the city’s streets is one of taxpayers’ biggest gripes, some city commissioners said.

In a special meeting Thursday, commissioners will reconsider the city’s proposed property tax rate of 58 cents per $100 of valuation.

The city’s tax rate has stood at 58 cents since 2010, when it was lowered from 59 cents, Mayor Chris Boswell said.

But this week, city officials discussed the possibility of a tax increase of as much as 4 cents.

To prepare for discussions, Boswell has requested City Manager Dan Serna project revenues and expenditures through the next five years.

For more than 10 years, the city’s tax rate has hovered between 58 and 59 cents.

That means a home assessed at $150,000 is paying about $882 in annual taxes for city services.

An increase of 4 cents would raise that tax to $942.

In 2002, the city raised its tax rate from 54.1 cents to 57.9 cents.

Two years later, the commission cut the rate from about 59 cents to 58 cents.

At the current tax rate, 1 cent generates $328,945.

A 4-cent increase would bring in $1.3 million.

“I’m not saying I’m advocating for a tax increase,” City Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn said. “Nobody wants to see a tax increase. I would like not to have one. We have a responsibility to take care of the community. If we could allocate the money to street repairs.”

Serna has proposed a $41 million general fund budget with a $15.1 million cash reserve capable of operating the city for 133 days in case of emergency.

But officials cut the city’s street repair program for the upcoming fiscal year.

Serna said he plans to pull $500,000 from cash reserves to fund street repairs.

But last year, the city funded a $1.5 million street program after taking $500,000 from reserves, Serna said.

“We need to take care of our roads,” Uhlhorn said. “If they’re neglected too long, it becomes very expensive to deal with.”

Last year’s steady rains weakened asphalt across town, Uhlhorn said.

“That really takes a toll on your streets,” Uhlhorn said. “That’s when you see potholes developing.”

In District 4, residents complain the most about street conditions, Commissioner Ruben de la Rosa said.

“Road improvements are the biggest problem I get,” de la Rosa said.

He said he’ll ask residents if they’d support a tax increase.

“I might go for it or I might not,” de la Rosa said of the possibility of raising taxes. “But I don’t base the decisions on myself. I ask my constituents how they feel. They’re the ones who’d be paying for it.”

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Property Tax Rates

– City of San Benito: 72 cents

– City of Brownsville: 70 cents

– City of Weslaco: 67 cents

– City of Harlingen: 58 cents

– City of Alamo: 58 cents

– City of Mission: 49 cents

– City of McAllen:  47 cents

Under the current tax rate of 58 cents per $100 of valuation, 1 cent generates $328,945

A 4-cent increase would generate $1.3 million