Homeowners in Cedar Park and Leander will pay lower property tax rates in fiscal year 2014–15 after both city councils approved new tax rates for their FY 2014–15 budgets in September.

But despite the lower tax rates, higher property value assessments mean many homeowners will pay more in 2015 property taxes than they paid in 2014. According to the Williamson Central Appraisal District, in 2014 average Leander home values increased 13.7 percent, and average Cedar Park home values increased 12.4 percent compared with 2013.

Cedar Park residents will pay a FY 2015 property tax rate of $0.485 per $100 of valuation, and Leander residents will pay a 2015 property tax rate of $0.65292 per $100 of valuation.

Cedar Park budget

Cedar Park Finance Director Joseph Gonzales said planners expect FY 2014–15 revenue to total $39.1 million. About $14 million, or 36 percent, of revenue will come from property taxes, and $10.5 million, or about 27 percent, of revenue will come from sales taxes, Gonzales said.

Though the opening of new businesses helped grow Cedar Park's sales tax base in FY 2013–14, Gonzales said the ciy does not expect sales tax revenue to significantly increase in FY 2014–15. However, when more retail businesses open during the current fiscal year, it will increase sales tax revenue for FY 2015–16, which could allow the city to rely more on sales tax revenue.

"Revenues are higher largely due to the growing population, so you have to balance the revenue growth with increased service demands while maintaining efficient, cost-effective service," Gonzales said.

Funding for public safety, such as the fire and police departments, accounts for about 52 percent—the largest expense category—of the city's general fund budget. The budget also funds new city positions, such as a public safety communications specialist, and purchases such as mobile data tablets for animal control officers.

Gonzales said the budget also prioritizes road improvements for the growing city.

"We've added $2 million in new funding to pay for transportation projects," he said.

The city's capital improvement projects include ventures funded by budget appropriations and debt issued through bonds. The new budget sets about $4.2 million as the city's contribution for widening Whitestone Boulevard between Cottonwood Creek Trail and Market Street. The budget also estimates $2.4 million for a portion of New Hope Road improvements, $2.2 million to finish Little Elm Trail, and $2.1 million to improve Anderson Mill Road.

Leander budget

Leander City Manager Kent Cagle said planners expect FY 2014–15 revenue to reach about $22.8 million. About $10.2 million, or about 45 percent, of that revenue is expected from property taxes, and $4.1 million, or about 18 percent, of revenue is expected from development fees.

The city's ongoing housing boom has city planners working to keep up by expanding the city's fire department, parks services and building permit inspection department. The budget funds 19 new full-time city positions that include 12 employees for a planned fire station, two parks maintenance workers and three staffers for the building inspections office.

"In August we had a record with 148 single-family [housing] permits," Cagle said. "We're delaying some inspections."

The budget includes $2.9 million to move Fire Station No. 1 from West Willis Street to San Gabriel Parkway and $2.7 million for a new Fire Station No. 4 at Ronald Reagan Boulevard and Journey Parkway.

The budget appropriates contributions for area road projects. In 2015 the city hopes to widen West Old FM 2243 west from US 183 to the new North Lakeline Boulevard extension. The project will cost the city and Williamson County each about $10 million, Cagle said. The city will also contribute $2.5 million for Leander ISD's widening of Municipal Drive during construction of Camacho Elementary School.

Some road projects depend on the city's bond sale planned for January—a bond sale that should be covered by continuing city growth, Cagle said.

Leander Finance Director Robert Powers said city offices also completed five-year budget plans to anticipate the future.

"It all revolves around the economy," Cagle said. "We ask: Does this pace of growth continue?"