City eyes tax hike

Harlingen proposes increase on property

HARLINGEN — For the first time in 14 years, city officials are proposing a property tax increase.

City commissioners have agreed to go ahead with City Manager Dan Serna’s call for an increase of about 4 cents that would boost the tax rate from a little more than 58.8 cents to 63 cents per $100 valuation.

The increase would generate $1.3 million to balance a proposed $45.1 million general fund budget that includes about $1.3 million in capital improvement expenditures.

The proposed budget, which would come with a $17.5 million cash reserve, compares with the current $44 million general fund budget.

“It’s to cover current expenses and provide a level of service acceptable to our citizens,” Serna said of the proposed tax increase after a Friday workshop. “Budgets are always challenging. At some point you’ve got to buy equipment and capital necessities.”

The proposed tax increase would mark the first in 14 years.

Mayor Chris Boswell said the city’s proposed 63-cent tax rate would become a small part of the city taxpayers’ overall annual tax bill.

“We’re not the big burden when it comes to taxes,” Boswell said during the workshop.

Serna proposed the $45.1 million general fund budget that would come with $46.5 million in expenditures, leaving a shortfall of $1.3 million.

The shortfall stems from about $1.3 million in “one-time” capital expenditures.

As part of the proposed budget, Serna earmarked $390,000 for nine police cars, $128,166 to fund fire department equipment including 12 air packs, $87,000 for a bucket truck, $320,000 for an emergency generator for City Hall, $163,800 to fund the public library’s elevator control and $83,931 to fund merit raises for non-Civil Service employees.

Overall, proposed police department expenditures total $13.2 million, or 40 percent of the proposed budget, while fire department expenditures total $9.49 million, or 29 percent.

Funding sources included $18.4 million in sales tax revenue and $16.5 million in property tax revenue.

As part of his proposal, Serna earmarked $1.4 million to fund street maintenance — the amount raised through a fee that’s part of residents’ monthly utility bill.

The proposed budget projected the Tony Butler Golf Course would incur a $204,337 annual deficit along with an estimated deficit fund balance of $970,792.

Earlier this week, city commissioners selected a committee to review a national consultant’s report recommending $3.7 million to $7 million in improvements to help the golf course boost revenue to about a break-even point.

For the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum, Serna projected a $17,089 shortfall.