City considers salary increases
The average homeowner in Smithville will pay $35 more in city property taxes next year after the City Council on Sept. 10 approved a 3-cent tax increase as part of its $11.7 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19.
The council approved a tax rate of 56.9 cents per $100 property valuation for the upcoming fiscal year, which will begin Oct. 1, up from the 53.9 cents.
The tax increase, which amounts to a 5.5 percent jump, is expected to raise $73,000 in additional revenue, City Manager Robert Tamble said, adding that it will get the city “back to normal” after a required tax rate drop for 2017-18 due to property value increases.
The average home in Smithville this year is valued at $163,485, down 1.6 percent from last year’s average home value of $166,148, the Bastrop Central Appraisal District told the Smithville Times in August.
Bastrop County chief appraiser Richard Petree said in August that the appraisal district lowered property values in Smithville because it had increased values too high in 2017.
“We pushed values upward last year, especially in Smithville, because of the loss of school funding,” Petree told the Times. “We felt we had to ensure that we were at market value. When we were able to analyze by specific areas of towns and by type of construction, we found that we were too high on some homes, and lowering the value was appropriate.”
The city’s $11.7 million budget breaks down into three main areas: general fund at $4.4 million, utility fund at $6.9 million and debt service at $389,000. Tamble said the budget is a “bare bones budget ... without a lot of foo-foo in it.”
City employees will receive a 3 percent merit salary increase, which will cost the city $185,000. The city also approved $250,000 for road and drainage repairs, and $155,000 to pay for the city’s match to larger grants it received.
The budget calls for increases in three ways: adding 1 cent to electric rates for large commercial customers, raising fees for contract lighting from $4.74 per bulb to $8, and raising service starting fees for new electricity customers by 10 percent.
“This is another example of putting the cost where it is; otherwise, the burden is on the taxpayer,” Council Member Joanna Morgan at the Sept. 5 workshop.
The 1 cent rate increase for large commercial customers and the fee increase for contract lighting is expected to raise $106,000 in revenue for the city.
Tamble said staff found $396,000 in budget cuts within its 16 city departments, excluding repairs and replacements to water storage facilities. Some of the items cut from the 2018-19 budget include: a citywide cleanup, purchase of a bucket truck, brush dump tub grinding, airport runway maintenance, two new positions at the Utility Department, reopening of Ramona Street between First and Second streets, and no WiFi, entrance sign or playground equipment at Riverbend Park.
Officials said some costs to the city have also increased: For example, property insurance went up by 17 percent, and the price of employee health insurance increased by 7 percent. Gasoline, oil and diesel costs increased by 35 percent, and trash pickup costs increased by 50 percent.
A new cost for the city is a partnership with the Smithville school district for a dedicated school resource officer. Contact Andy Sevilla at 512-321-2557. Twitter: @MrAndySevilla
Smithville City Manager Robert Tamble goes over financial details of the proposed 2018-19 budget recently.