City Manager Ed Broussard is proposing a budget that increases property taxes and water fees and spends more on roads, police, fire and other services.

Broussard proposes an annual operating budget to the City Council every year. The City Council then holds public hearings before adopting a budget in September to go into effect Oct. 1.

Broussard’s budget proposes a tax rate of 25.99 cents per $100 of property valuation. That’s a roughly 1.5-cent increase over the current rate of 24.4452 cents.

The proposed rate also is slightly below the rollback rate — the limit that the city can raise taxes without potentially triggering an election— of 25.991 cents.

This is the fourth year in a row that the city manager has proposed a tax rate increase and the second year in a row that the proposed rate has been so close to the rollback rate.

Over the past four years, the tax rate has increased from 22 cents to 23 cents; from 23 cents to 24 cents; and from 24 cents to 24.4452 cents, which was last year’s rollback rate.

The proposed rate would increase revenue by about $2 million over the amount collected in the current fiscal year, or about $1.6 million if the city were to keep its tax rate level.

Under the proposal, 1 cent of the increase would be dedicated to a street improvement fund that was created a couple years ago. The other portion of the increase would go to the city’s general fund, the city’s main pot of money.

The majority of the money spent from the general fund is related to police, fire, roads, parks, the library and general government services. There are about three dozen total funds in the city budget, and some receive money from the general fund.

Mayor Martin Heines said the proposed tax rate is entirely related to Senate Bill 2, the law that Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June restricting the amount cities and counties can raise property taxes to about 3.5 percent per year. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

“I’m committed to it,” Heines said in an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “It’s the right thing to do, and I don’t want to shy away from that fact.

“In my last year as mayor, I really want to emphasize that we need to plan for the next five to 10 years, with SB 2 ... because we’re the lowest tax rate (in the state),” he said.

“And to see the fluctuations in sales tax (over previous years), I’d like to have a more stable environment that I’ll leave for the city and for future mayors,” Heines said.

He pointed to a time when the city saw low revenue from sales taxes and had to impose hiring restrictions on the police department. To avoid that, he said the budget proposes adding $3 million to an existing $3 million pot of money to create a $6 million rainy day fund.

“We need to have that rainy day fund,” Heines said. “I need to make sure that future mayors and councils have the ability to draw down for public safety.”

Some of the other new spending from the general fund includes:

n 1.5% raises for both police officers and firefighters.

n Two new patrol officers and two new firefighters.

n Replacement of bunker gear for firefighters.

n New patrol vehicle for the police department.

n An ISO consultant, related to homeowners insurance rates.

n A new firetruck (split between general fund and another city fund).

n Items of interest in other funds include:

n 2% merit increases added to city employees’ base pay.

n 1% merit increases divided into quarterly lump sums.

n No health insurance premium increases for city employees.

Water Utilities and Solid Waste

Additionally, the city’s drinking water and sewer department, Tyler Water Utilities, is seeking to increase rates. This department is set up as its own fund within the city budget and is meant to be funded through service fees, not property taxes.

Monthly bills will go from $56.19 to $62.19 for households consuming 5,000 gallons; from $89.07 to $96.70 for households consuming 10,000 gallons; and from $155.30 to $166.20 for businesses with consumption of 30,000 gallons.

Broussard said the city tracks rates in other parts of Texas, and Tyler continues to be lower than the statewide average, even with this year’s proposed increases and increases in previous years.

The Solid Waste Department will increase fees based on annual inflation, for an increase of about $122,000, and begin charging for picking up old tires at the curbside, for an increase of about $65,000.

Other services

The city will raise prices for burials and related services at its cemeteries and remove a maintenance building in order to offer more plots.

The price for cemetery plots will go from $2,500 to $4,000; internment fees will increase from $250 to $375; gate fees will increase from $250 to $375; monument fees will increase from $75 to $150; and a new $250 beautification fee will be added.

“We looked at (the prices) as far as the private cemeteries,” Broussard, the city manger, said in an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “We’re still below market rates in relationship to other burial locations.”

The city’s Development Services Department, which is funded largely through building permit fees, will change its fee schedule because a new state law does not allow for fees to be based on the value of projects.

Tyler Transit will get six new buses and one van. The cost is $1.3 million. The federal government will fund the majority, and transportation credits from the state will fund most of the rest, Broussard said.

Government Reporter

Erin came to Tyler from Vermont, where she worked for and previously the Rutland Herald. She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also attended journalism school.

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