The Tyler City Council has proposed raising property taxes from a rate of 24.4452 cents per $100 of property valuation to 25.99 cents.
The City Council voted to propose the increase at a meeting Wednesday, after City Manger Ed Broussard gave a formal presentation on the corresponding budget.
The budget is for fiscal-year 2020, which runs from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020. The tax rate would be imposed on 2019 property values and paid in 2020.
Council members took one comment from a representative of the Northeast Texas Public Health District, which receives funding from the city, but did not discuss the details of the budget before voting. Several explained their votes in interviews afterward.
“We’ve discussed it, and so I said to the mayor, it looks like that that’s probably OK because of the fact that we’re the lowest in the state and we’ve been able to operate at that level and provided what we needed, so we can provide more,” said Councilwoman Shirley McKellar, who joined the City Council in June.
“My district, we’re going to see great things happening in my district,” McKellar said. “I appreciate the budget and what was going to happen in the parks. That’s one of the things I really got a lot while I was campaigning was that the people did not have a park.”
Councilman Don Warren said the tax revenue is needed to take care of city streets.
“Streets is one of the things that we get the most complaints about, and we’ve had insufficient revenue to do the street improvements,” Warren said. “We want a score of 81 (out of 100). We’re at probably a 77 now. We need the extra revenue to work on the streets.”
The property tax rate has gone up each year for the past three years. Tyler property owners were charged 22 cents per $100 of valuation on their 2016 property values.
“I got on council in 2014, so in five years, we’ve raised taxes 4 cents in that five-year period,” Warren said. “So I don’t think going up 4 cents in that five-year period is extreme.”
Councilwoman Linda Sellers, who works in health insurance, said the fund used to pay for employee health insurance is stronger than it has been in recent years.
The fund had a balance of $302,000 in the beginning of fiscal-year 2018, compared with $2.9 million in fiscal-year 2019, and $4.9 million in the proposed fiscal-year 2020 budget. The budget projects that will increase to $5.3 million.
“This is the most positive budget I have seen in my four years on council,” Sellers said in a prepared statement. “I am extremely glad the employee benefit budget item has gone from borrowing other funds the year I came on council to a surplus of $5 million this year.”
Councilman Bob Westbrook last year recommended the tax rate be raised to 29 cents, in order to start a discussion on the city’s infrastructure needs. That motion failed when no one seconded. He did not make any motions on Wednesday.
He said it made sense last year to propose a larger increase than the city manager had proposed because the financial situation was worse than it is now. He said sales tax revenue and property valuations in the city both have increased since then.
“Now, are there some serious discussions that are going to happen between now and when the budget is officially approved?” Westbrook asked. “Yeah, absolutely, because there’s going to be some things that I feel strongly about.”
He said he would like to see increased funding for parks maintenance — many of the major park proposals in the budget are for capital improvements — and for the Northeast Texas Public Health District.
“So I hope the community comes out and gives their opinion, makes their request, makes their comments, positive and negative, so that they’re heard,” Westbrook said.
Councilman Criss Sudduth was present for the vote but did not return a call seeking comment. Councilman Broderick McGee was absent.
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