City says proposed tax hike to fund flood projects

Harlingen cash reserves projected to drop

HARLINGEN — A proposed 4-cent tax hike would help fund new drainage projects, pushing the city’s planned general fund budget from $46.5 million to $47.8 million.

City officials announced the revision Wednesday night before angry residents spoke out in a public hearing to bitterly oppose the plan to raise the property tax rate from about 58 cents per $100 valuation to 63 cents to generate about $1.3 million a year.

The drainage projects would help slash the city’s $17.5 million cash reserve fund, capable of operating the city for about 135 days, to $15.1 million, enough to run operations for about 91 days.

Before the public hearing, City Manager Dan Serna told the crowd the 4-cent hike would help fund drainage projects after the state agreed to earmark federal money to help finance the upgrades aimed at curbing flooding.

“I think it’s a huge step for us,” Mayor Chris Boswell said of the drainage projects.

About a week ago, the state agreed to tap a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to help the city fund a drainage project with an overall price tag of about $2.7 million, Serna said before the crowd.

While the state funds about $1.2 million of the total cost, Serna said the city will finance about $1.6 million.

As part of an agreement, the city will pay any cost overruns, he said.

The project will help to curb flooding in the area along Ninth Street from Jackson Avenue to Pierce Avenue and 13th Street from Tyler Avenue to Pierce Avenue, Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said.

“It’s a large project,” Boswell said. “It’s going to make a significant impact.”

13th Street drainage project

During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners also agreed to earmark $100,550 to widen a drainage ditch running along 13th Street in an area between Matz Road and Montezuma Road.

“The project needs to be done (for) this particular part of town,” Boswell said.

As part of the project, Cameron County Drainage District No. 5 agreed to fund $56,824 to widen the ditch north of Montezuma.

The project will help curb flooding in area neighborhoods, Sanchez said.

“Several homes saw some kind of water damage,” he said, referring to widespread flooding after the June 24 storm dumped about 12 inches of rain in about four hours.

Lincoln and Dixieland project

Commissioners will also spend $342,194 to widen a drainage ditch running between Lincoln Avenue and Dixieland Road.

To complete the project, Drainage District No. 5 agreed to fund $152,390 to widen the ditch from Dixieland south to the Arroyo Colorado

Meanwhile, the Harlingen Irrigation District agreed to provide labor.

“This is going to affect the Walmart retail area and the neighborhood area,” Boswell said.

As part of the city’s proposed budget, Serna is calling for one-time capital improvements including $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 and $163,800 to fund the public library’s elevator control.