The city of Tyler’s proposed tax rate is 4.5 percent higher than last year, but city officials say that all of the new money will go to roads. City Manager Ed Broussard and Mayor Martin Heines presented the proposed budget and tax rate in Wednesday's City Council meeting.
The tax rate for fiscal year 2016-2017 is set at 23 cents per $100 in property valuation, up from last year’s 22 cents per $100. On a home valued at $150,000, the property tax bill would be $345, up $15 from last year’s bill of $330.
Because many homes have increased in value (as reflected in the Smith County Appraisal District’s valuation), residents could see even higher tax bills.
Heines said the new revenue will be dedicated to road maintenance.
“Proactive, pay-as-you-go maintenance is key to the longevity of our infrastructure,” Heines said in a release. “Either we invest in our infrastructure maintenance now, or in the next few years, we will be forced to go into general obligation debt to rebuild our roads and storm water drainage system.”
At the same time, water and sewer rates are also going up. Water rates will rise 5 percent, and sewer rates will go up $1.50 for the base, with a 54 cents volumetric rate increase. The average user could see a utilities bill increase of 11.5 percent. That increase will fund an estimated $2.7 million in plant and sewer system improvements in the coming year.
The monthly bill for 10,000 gallons of water, when added to sewer, water quality and storm water fees, would total $81.51, up $8.40 from last year’s $73.11.
“This is the 100th anniversary of Tyler Water Utilities,” Broussard explained in an editorial board meeting with the Tyler Paper. “In 1916, the city bought some existing water utilities, and formed the city department. And some of those original pipes are still in the ground.”
Aging pipes and increasing regulatory requirements from the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) are putting some pressure on the city to rebuild much of its system.
“To ensure the safety of our drinking water, and to comply with the regulatory agencies, we must continue to invest in our water infrastructure,” Broussard said.
Although property tax revenues will be up by an estimated $1.23 million, the city’s budget will actually be slightly smaller than last year - except for the street maintenance item. The general fund is projected to be $63.9 million, down from last year’s $64.3 million.
Sales taxes make up the bulk of the city’s revenues, at 42 percent. Property taxes make up 27 percent, and franchise fees another 16 percent. Fines and fees bring in about 10 percent.
As is usual, most of that money is spent on public safety. The police department makes up 42 percent of the city’s budget, and the fire department makes up another 28 percent.
But Broussard said the city has done some belt-tightening in order to come in under last year’s budget. That includes putting off some vehicle and equipment purchases.
Some of the big capital projects in the coming year include roof repairs at the Library and new dashboard cameras for the city’s patrol cars.
The new animal shelter will be fully staffed this budget year, and the mayor’s Innovation Pipeline project should also be up and running by January.
The City Council will hold two public hearings on the proposed budget and tax rate: Aug. 24 and Aug. 31. The budget and tax rate are scheduled to be adopted on Sept. 14.