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Local
Property taxes in Tyler will go to 25.99 cents as city approves tax rate, budget

Property taxes in the city of Tyler will increase to 25.99 cents per $100 of property value on upcoming tax bills.

The rate will be applied to 2019 property values, and be on the tax bills that are paid between the beginning of October and the end of January.

The Tyler City Council unanimously approved the tax rate at a meeting Wednesday, marking the fourth year in a row that the city has increased property taxes.

The tax rate increased from 22 cents to 23 cents in 2016; from 23 cents to 24 cents in 2017; and from 24 cents to 24.4452 cents in 2018.

In 2018, the city raised property taxes by the highest possible amount without potentially triggering a tax election. The 2019 rate is slightly below that maximum.

The City Council also approved a corresponding budget for fiscal year 2020, which starts Tuesday, and an ordinance directing more money to be spent on streets.

The spending plan calls for two more police officers, two more firefighters, a new fire engine and increased spending on parks.

It also dedicates a full 2 cents of the new property tax rate to a street improvement fund, earmarking about $1.5 million for the city’s roads.Mayor Martin Heines said it is impossible for the current City Council to force future members to continue dedicating the money, but the new ordinance comes as close as possible.

“I’m very hopeful that this increase in the street maintenance fund will have a great lasting effect on this community,” Heines said.

City Manager Ed Broussard estimated that the city would be able to pay for about 79 miles of roads next year, compared with just under 28 in the current fiscal year.

Heines said he also hopes the new funding from property taxes will decrease the amount of money from the Half Cent Sales Tax Fund being spent on street maintenance.

The intent of the Half Cent Sales Tax Fund when it was created was to fund major, long-term infrastructure projects without having to issue bonds, but money has been spent on maintenance projects in recent years.

The city funded its 2019 asphalt enhancement program, at a value of $3.3 million, fully from the Half Cent Sales Tax Fund. The 2018 program was $4.1 million, and the cost was shared among city funds, including the Half Cent Sales Tax Fund.

A fourth ordinance will increase fees for most city services, including drinking water, sewer, trash pickup, recycling, cemeteries and construction-related permits. Rental fees at the senior center will not change.

Broussard said the intent of increasing fees is to have those parts of city government be self-funded. For example, he said increasing cemetery fees would help reduce the amount of money from property and sales taxes that are used to pay for the cemeteries.

Heines reflected on the City Council and city staff’s long-standing tradition to run the government like a business, to the extent possible.

“It’s never going to be perfect but this is as perfect as it could be,” he said.

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Local
City of Tyler won’t raise rental fees at senior center

The city of Tyler will not raise rental fees at the senior center in the upcoming fiscal year, after members of a local bridge club said they could not afford the proposed change.

The Tyler City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to keep rental fees level at $30 an hour, instead of increasing them to $60 an hour as the city manager had recommended.

At the previous meeting, members of Unit 225 of the American Contract Bridge League told the City Council the proposed increase would price people out of playing in their monthly bridge games.

City Manager Ed Broussard followed up with the City Council on Sept. 20 at the request of Mayor Martin Heines. In an email, Broussard offered a compromise proposal to charge $50 per hour for a minimum of two hours, and $40 per hour thereafter.

Broussard also forwarded a letter from the Rambling Rose Square Dance Club opposing the rate increase, and said the bridge and square dance clubs were the only regular renters of the facility.

Broussard said the reason behind increasing the fee is to recover costs. He said renting the facility requires the city to pay overtime to a custodian at a rate of $27 per hour to do setup, cleanup and serve as an event caretaker.

By comparison, he said the Glass Recreation Center’s room rentals are $65 an hour and the Rose Room at the Rose Garden Center is $80 an hour, making the proposed senior center rates comparable. He said the senior center last raised its rates in 2009.

At the Wednesday meeting, Councilwoman Linda Sellers asked to revisit the issue. She pointed to Tyler’s years-old designation as the first Certified Retirement City in Texas.

“I just kind of feel like we should reconsider the rate increase that was proposed for the senior citizens center that is only going to bring you about $10,000 more in revenue,” Sellers said.

Councilman Don Warren agreed.

“We talk about cost recovery,” Warren said. “You know, with our parks, we don’t have a cost recovery, but we give our parks to the young kids and parents and grandparents.”

He suggested there be no increase.

Councilman Broderick McGee added: “There are going to be some things that we need to do just as a community, an investment in the community, and what better way to show our senior citizens that we’re invested in them than to not raise the rates for them?”

Sellers thanked the senior citizens in the audience who brought the issue to the City Council’s attention.

Councilwoman Shirley McKellar said: “The seniors have invested into us, so it’s time to invest into them.”

The City Council then voted unanimously to approve all of the updated fees for city services, with the exception of the fees at the senior center.

Wayne Carter, the president of the Rambling Rose Square Dance Club, went to the podium and thanked the City Council for voting not to raise fees.

Carter said the group has 48 people who dance the first Saturday night of each month and are given a full meal. People of all ages are welcome.

Additionally, he said the affiliated Texas State Federation of Square and Round Dancers brings 200 to 300 people into Tyler for state federation dances, a benefit to tourism.

He said in an interview that his group has danced in different areas of Tyler, but stays at the senior center in large part because of the price.

“We think that we’re an asset to the city of Tyler,” Carter said.

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Local
Livestock shows at East Texas State Fair draws competitors of all ages

With her head held high, 3-year-old Hadley Geiger strutted into the arena, working to make sure her 7-month-old miniature Hereford calf kept its head up, too.

She might be small, but Hadley said she’s a pro, dispensing valuable wisdom as she went to get her next calf ready.

It was a busy day at the East Texas State Fair for a lot of little cowboys and cowgirls, as some of the youngest participants showed their livestock.

Hadley participated in the Pre-Junior show, which her mother, Tabitha, said was the third this week alone, having come to Tyler from a show in Oklahoma.

Hadley won’t be headed back to their Blue Ridge home empty-handed, taking home the Division Calf Champion ribbon.

Hadley said her favorite part of raising livestock is showing them, but she also enjoys getting to bathe and blow-dry the cows. Her mom said she usually gets wetter than the calves, but the girl just wears her bathing suit and has fun with it.

Hadley said the most difficult part of showing is when the heifer fights with its halter.

A stubborn cow can be problematic when it’s already several times larger than you are, but Hadley’s already a pro.

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper