City approves $48.6M budget’s first reading: Newly appraised property values boosting residents’ taxes

HARLINGEN — The city’s proposed $48.6 million general fund budget comes with a “slight” dip in the property tax rate, Mayor Chris Boswell says.

However, newly appraised property values coming in at $3.6 billion, compared with the current $3.4 billion, are boosting taxes across town.

Earlier this week, city commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance setting the city’s proposed general fund budget at $48.6 million.

“ I do want to point out that this actually comes with a slight decrease in the tax rate although there is an increase in overall revenue as a result of new revenues coming into our city,” Boswell said during the meeting Wednesday.

While the city’s property tax rate stands at about 63 cents per $100 valuation, the city’s “voter-approval tax rate” dipped to about 61 cents as a result of the tax increase generated through newly appraised property values.

This year, a new state law caps increases in local property taxes at 3.5 percent unless voters approve further increases.

During Wednesday’s meeting, resident John Lane told commissioners he and his neighbors expect to pay an additional $200 in property taxes this year for their homes in the Adams Crossing subdivision, where they face flooding during heavy rains.

Last year, commissioners passed a four-cent tax increase which boosted the city’s property tax rate from 58 cents to about 63 cents per $100 valuation, generating about $1.3 million this year.

“ Why are they doing this, especially with the drainage problem we have,” Lane asked commissioners during the meeting’s public comment period. “If we continue raising the taxes and you’re not fixing the drainage, you’re defeating the purpose.”

During the June 2018 and 2019 storms, flood waters rushed into his home, Lane has said.

However, a neighbor has said the city’s recent widening of a 13th Street drainage ditch and development of two retention ponds helped hold back floodwaters after Hurricane Hanna dumped heavy rains in July.

“ If you want to work for the people, do the thing for the people,” Lane told commissioners during Wednesday’s meeting. “Fix the drainage. Work for the people. Quit working for the developers.”

 

Proposed budget projects no sales tax increase

 

The proposed budget comes with a hefty $17.6 million cash reserve fund — enough to operate the city for 132 days in case of an emergency.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on consumer spending cluttered budget projections.

Nearly every year, officials project as much as 5-percent increases in sales tax revenue — which makes up 40 percent of the general fund budget.

But amid economic uncertainty stemming from the pandemic, City Manager Dan Serna didn’t propose an increase in the city’s current $19.3 million in sales tax collection.

 

$2.49 million in proposed expenditures

 

This year, the proposed budget comes with $2.49 million in one-time expenditures.

As part of the proposed police public safety budget, Serna is planning expenditures to include $210,000 for body cameras, $510,000 for 10 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs, a $37,000 back-up server and $77,515 in 911 recording equipment upgrade for the police department.

For the fire department, the proposed budget includes $96,000 for 12 air packs, a $45,000 extractor, $10,000 for 10 self-contained breathing apparatus air cylinders and $12,000 for six automated external defibrillators.

The proposed budget also includes $52,000 for an Arroyo Hike and Bike Trail parking lot and a $25,000 Ford F-150 pickup truck for the parks department; a $30,000 Ford F-150 pickup truck for the code compliance department and a $25,000 Ford F-150 pickup truck for the health department.

Other proposed expenditures include a $117,000 roof repair for the library; $17,700 for an animal shelter parking lot overlay; $60,804 for in-house custodial services; $23,000 for two traffic signal cabinets; $25,000 for a Ford F-150 pickup truck for the animal control department; and $15,000 for meetings management software.

The proposed budget also includes $300,000 for a pedestrian bridge and sidewalk along Palm Boulevard, a $269,000 street sweeper and $738,000 for 315 mobile and portable radios.

Meanwhile, Serna’s proposed budget points to deficits at the Tony Butler Golf Course, projected to run a $209,351 shortfall while carrying a $1.46 million deficit fund balance.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com