Mission approves tax increase, adopts $115 million budget

For the second consecutive year, the Mission City Council voted to raise property taxes, approving a less than 1 cent increase for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Mayor Armando O’Caña and councilmembers Ruben Plata, Jessica Ortega-Ochoa, and Jose Alberto Vela voted in favor of the 0.5299. Mayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza provided the sole opposing vote.

With the new rate, a home valued at $142,000, for example, would pay $1.03 per month and $12.35 annually in taxes.

The city is also expected to generate about $24.8 million at 100% collection and $23.8 million at 96% collection.

The additional revenue, compared to this current year, is estimated at about $500,000.

If not for the pandemic, the 0.5299 rate would have been the highest rate the city could have adopted without voter approval. However, because of the negative effects caused by the spread of COVID-19, local government agencies are able to raise taxes by up to 8%, which was the previous cap.

An 8% tax increase for Mission would have meant a tax rate of 0.5490 for the new fiscal year, which City Manager Randy Perez had presented as his recommendation during a special meeting on Aug. 28.

Perez pointed out during the meeting that Mission has a lower tax rate than most cities in the Rio Grande Valley, including Edinburg, Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, La Joya, Weslaco, Mercedes and Donna.

“Therefore, we do need the additional tax revenue to be able to 1) sustain the services that we currently offer and then also continue improving our city,” Perez told the council. However, only O’Caña and Ortega-Ochoa supported proposing such a hike so the city moved forward with the proposal, and eventual adoption, of a 0.5299 tax rate.

“We need to balance the budget,” O’Caña said of his vote for approving the increase. “Historically, the last 20 years, our city has lowered the taxes beyond 25 cents and the services have tripled since that time.”

During the city council meeting held Sept. 14, the council also adopted a $115,132,984 budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The adopted budget includes a general fund budget of $51,532,991.

Perez broke down the other funds included in the budget:

  • Utility fund budget: $21,655,404
  • Golf course fund budget:  $1,436,754
  • Capital golf course fund: $12,300
  • Solid waste fund: $7,341,395
  • Events center fund: $755,129
  • Special revenue fund: $14,612,195
  • Capital projects fund: $6,034,546
  • Group health fund: $6,111,277
  • Debt service fund: $5,640,993

During a public hearing on the proposed rate that was held during that Sept. 14 city council meeting, a couple of residents spoke out against the increase, arguing that people couldn’t afford it and that the middle of a pandemic was not the right time to be raising taxes.

But O’Caña reiterated the city was working toward balancing the budget and paying their debt, noting that the city still owed money for the Mission Event Center, the Center for Education and Economic Development and certificates of obligation.

“I don’t think they have enough information to be able to determine that there is no need for a tax rate increase,” O’Caña said. “If there was no need for a tax rate increase, I would not raise taxes.”