Lakeway City Council ended a months-long and occasionally spirited discussion on the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21 by approving the budget and property tax rate for the year beginning Oct. 1 at a Sept. 28 special meeting.
The $15.06 million budget, developed during several meetings and through public input, drew a unanimous vote. After initially planning to vote on a no-new-revenue tax rate of $0.1653 per $100 of assessed value, council at the last minute voted unanimously to keep the $0.1645 tax rate that has been in place since fiscal year 2018-19.
While the $0.1653 tax rate would have added approximately $8 of property tax to a million-dollar home, according to city officials, council decided even a modest tax hike during a year when appraised values remained mostly flat seemed inappropriate.
To make up for the $41,000 revenue shortfall created by the continuation of the existing tax rate, council agreed to withdraw that amount of funding from the reserve fund, dropping it from 35% to 34%.
The reserve fund is a rainy day fund that is set aside to be used when revenues hit critically low levels. Lakeway’s reserves could fund city operations for four months without additional sources of revenue, according to city staff. A reserve fund at 100% could fully fund a city for one year.
No staff pay raises are in the proposed budget, saving $180,000. Although three full-time and two part-time vacant positions are frozen in the proposed budget, the proposed budget contains four new positions: a grant coordinator; a planner; a fleet management coordinator; and an emergency management coordinator, which would be a regional position funded by an interlocal agreement with The Hills and Bee Cave.
Council will periodically revisit the budget and revenue streams, at which point they may add or reduce expenditures based on the city’s financial health, City Manager Julie Oakley said.
After the votes, council and staff were visibly relieved to be done with the budget and tax rate discussion.
"It’s a budget unlike any other we’ve ever seen in the city of Lakeway,” Oakley said.