Adding to the reserves: San Benito keeping tax rate the same, budget will include raises for employees

SAN BENITO — If all goes according to plan with the 2016-2017 proposed budget, the city will be closer to its long-term fiscal goals.

While maintaining the same tax rate as last year, the city will be able to likely boost its reserves and give employees up to a 2.5-percent wage increase.

A public hearing on the San Benito tax rate and budget is set for Tuesday, Sept. 6, during the regular city meeting. On Sept. 13, city officials are expected to officially adopt the budget and tax rate.

Earlier this week, the city manager and officials spoke at length about the more than $12 million budget, which has a revenue surplus of about $178,000 before the planned employee raises.

The raises are expected to take up about $158,000 of that surplus. Officials agreed to earmark that money specifically for future employee raises to be analyzed at a later time.

The budget also ensures the city has enough reserve cash in the bank to operate for 110 days, at $35,000 per day.

Prior to this budget, the number was at 103. City officials had hoped to reach the 120-day mark.

However, while it appears the budget is close to complete, officials are still working on it.

Tax rate

The proposed tax rate sits at $0.728 per $100 of assessed value.

While the rate remains the same, because of increased property values, the city will raise more tax money. The proposed tax rate exceeds the effective rate of about $0.721, which is the rate needed to raise the same amount of property tax revenue as the previous year.

Due to increased property values, it is likely most people will see a tax increase.

The city’s proposed tax rate also is among the highest in the Rio Grande Valley.

That didn’t fall on deaf ears at the hearing earlier this week.

Local resident Santiago Perez was vocal with his opinion about the future of San Benito.

“There are no people coming to live in San Benito,” he said. “There might be some, but the population increases are very minimal.”

He asked what city officials are doing to attract people.

“The businesses are failing as soon as they go up,” he said. “What are you doing to attract people? Our tax rate is one of the highest in the Valley, if not the highest.”

He said without people in the city owning homes and paying property taxes, there isn’t any money.

“We can’t be taxing the same people over and over again,” he said. “You are not raising taxes this time, but it is coming. Sooner or later you are going to sneak it in there. I am old enough to know how the system works.”

Another property owner voiced her concern about an increase in her appraisal by $6,000, leading to an increase in taxes of nearly $200 per year. Although Mary Helen Cantu de la Rosa said she doesn’t live here and her home here remains vacant, now she is considering selling due to the increased taxes.

In 2014, the average value of a home was $60,837. With the same tax rate of $0.728125, the amount of taxes imposed on those homes would have been $442.97.

This year, the average value of a home has gone up to $66,454. Now that the city is considering the same tax rate, the amount of taxes imposed this year on the average home would be $483.78.