City con­sid­ers salary in­creases

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Fran Hunter and Andy Sevilla Smithville Times asevilla@ac­n­news­pa­pers.com

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

FRAN HUNTER / FOR SMITHVILLE TIMES

Smithville City Man­ager Robert Tam­ble goes over fi­nan­cial de­tails of the pro­posed 2018-19 bud­get re­cently.

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