Leander adopts 32.6 percent larger budget with more capital project investments for FY 2018-19

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Leander City Council adopted a larger operating budget for fiscal year 2018-19 Thursday night and some residents could see a decrease on their property tax bills if council approves a lower tax rate for the next budget year.

The $178.54 million budget is about 32.6 percent higher than last year’s budget. The brunt of the increase comes from more capital projects, Leander City Manager Kent Cagle said. According to city documents, the city would provide 81 percent more funding for the FY 2018-19 budget than the current budget year.

The budget implements the second phase of Leander’s 2016 bond, opens Fire Station No. 5
with 12 positions, builds the city’s first regional park and opens the senior activity center. The funding also adds positions to the police department and parks and recreation department, adds a new employee for the future senior activity center and three positions in the utility fund.

City Council also learned the Leander Fire Department will receive a federal grant worth $1.4 million to help with the hiring of firefighters in September. The city had previously planned to fund all the personnel for the city’s fifth fire station in the FY 2018-19 budget, so council voted to reallocate some of that funding. That funding will provide for a street supervisor position, a vehicle for public works, a division chief position and vehicle for the fire department, a stipend for three uniformed personnel for the fire department and a traffic professional for an access management study.

The growing budget is also funded by an increasing tax base. Leander’s property tax base increased by 20 percent since last year’s budget to $5.48 billion, Cagle said.

Leander residents could also see a lower tax rate for the sixth year in a row. City Council is considering a tax rate for FY 2018-19 of $0.55 per $100 valuation, which is lower than the city’s effective rate, or the tax rate that would generate the same amount of revenue as the previous budget year.

The new tax rate means a Leander resident living in a house of average value in Travis County could see around an $80 reduction on his or her annual property tax bill. Meanwhile, a Leander resident living in a house of average value in Williamson County could see about a $27 increase in his or her annual bill.

Leander residents will also see a slight reduction in the monthly water reserve charge on water bills, which Cagle said is the first reduction in the water rate in several years. Residents currently see a $5 charge for reserve water, which will drop to $4 for the next budget year.

City Council could decide on the tax rate for FY 2018-19 on Sept. 20.

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Caitlin covers Cedar Park and Leander city councils and reports on education, transportation, government and business news. She is an alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin. Most recently, Caitlin produced a large-scale investigative project with The Dallas Morning News and led education coverage in the Brazos Valley at The Bryan-College Station Eagle. After interning with Community Impact Newspaper for two summers, she joined the staff as a reporter in 2015.
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