Area rates running the gamut in FY 2013

Cities adjusting rates in accordance with changing property values

With budget season in full swing, city councils are discussing tax rates, expenditures and revenues. The Cities of Lakeway and West Lake Hills are looking at reducing and maintaining property tax rates respectively while Rollingwood is discussing raising tax rates.

[Editors note: The City of Bee Cave's budget was covered in the previous edition of Community Impact Newspaper.]

Lakeway

At the City of Lakeway budget work session Aug. 13, the council set a proposed tax rate of 18.15 cents per $100 property valuation, a decrease from the current rate of 19.96 cents per $100 valuation. The council could have proposed a rate as high as 20.08 cents, but changes to property values allowed council to propose a rate 9.6 percent less.

Revenue from property taxes will actually decrease due to lowering the tax rate and a slight decrease in the average home appraised value, Jones said.

The city also expects a 6 percent increase in revenue in the FY 2013 budget, allowing the tax rate to be lowered without the city cutting its budget.

"We looked very carefully at our revenue projections for next year, and we were able to increase four [areas]. [We] didn't feel like we needed to decrease any of them," Jones said.

Increases in revenue projections for development fees, the municipal court, the activity center and miscellaneous revenue result in an increase of $111,800, Jones said.

Among the list of expenditures Jones proposed to the council was an average 3.1 percent merit increase in wages for city employees. The increase in wages covers all but 14 positions, which would receive a one-time adjustment.

Jones also proposed to council that the number of police dispatchers be increased from eight to nine to ensure that two dispatchers are working at the desk at the same time.

The Lakeway Parks and Recreation Department's proposed budget includes items totaling $138,100, including a wildfire reduction program, a skid-steer loader, two landscaping projects and a drainage project at Dragon Park.

Jones' proposed budget left some room for the council to reconsider other budget items.

"One of the things I would like to be reconsidered is a public relations coordinator," Jones said. "That is a position we could have used in the past. I think we are getting to the point where we need to get out a lot of public information, and that would be a valuable position the city could provide."

The recommendation for a community coordinator—as Councilman Alan Tye refers to the position—has been tabled for four years and is a needed position, he said.

The city has a fund balance of $2,923,2011, and Jones proposed a shortfall budget with revenue at $9,375,134 and expenditures at $9,693,537 plus the items to be reconsidered, leaving the city with a fund balance of approximately $2.5 million.

Rollingwood

Rollingwood Mayor Barry Bone released the city's proposed FY 2013 budget in which the maintenance and operations property tax rate will increase to 15.24 cents per $100 valuation, the highest rate that the city could set without the possibility of a rollback election. If a tax rate is set higher than the projected rollback rate, residents can circulate a petition to have an election to lower the adopted tax rate.

The city will also have a debt tax rate of 6.12 cents per $100 valuation to pay for the city's purchase of the wastewater system from the Lower Colorado River Authority. Residents will see a decrease in wastewater bills because of the purchase of the LCRA system.

The 21.36 cents per $100 valuation property tax rate is an increase of 7.24 cents per $100 valuation over last year's rate.

The $5.15 million budget proposed by Bone includes a 3 percent raise for all employees not including a $10,000 increase for the Rollingwood police chief, $10,000 for two police promotions, $1,000 each for two public works employees and $80,000 to hire a city administrator.

The proposed budget also includes a yet-to-be-determined amount of money to purchase seven iPads for use by City Council and an increase of $30,000 in court costs in anticipation of potential lawsuits.

"I think we have the potential to have several lawsuits against the city," Bone said. "I hope they don't happen, but if they do, I want to be prepared for them."

The mayor's budget proposal has a projected $32,429 shortfall.

West Lake Hills

The proposed tax rate for West Lake Hills was not changed from last year, staying at 5.34 cents per $100 valuation.

The proposed budget, which Robert Wood, West Lake Hills City Administrator, said will be cut down in the coming budget hearings, has a nearly $1 million shortfall. The projected revenue for the city is $3,783,841 while the proposed expenditures are $4,774,125.

"The expenditures will probably come down," Wood said. "The items are just on there so council can discuss them."

Wood said that he does not expect council to approve a nearly $1 million gap and that the budget proposal will be amended during the next month.

The proposed budget for city administration includes $79,337 for a new administrative position, which could vary from a full-time position to a few part-time positions, West Lake Hills Mayor Dave Claunch said.

The public works budget is a nearly half-million dollar increase from last year's budget, mainly due to $500,000 included in the draft budget for discussion, to improve Camp Craft road. The council discussed a variety of options for the road, including resurfacing it, adding a center turn lane, improving the low water portion of the road, or a combination of the options. The cost for the improvements could range anywhere from $75,000–$1,038,266.

The council also proposed $350,000 for fire safety, $55,000 less than was budgeted the previous year. Council discussed many options for fire safety, including investing in the FireWatch system, which uses cameras and smoke sensors to monitor forested areas for fire.

"I think it could single-handedly be the greatest thing we do [in terms of fire protection], if it does indeed work," Claunch said.

Councilman David Moore agreed with the mayor, saying that the city absolutely needs to have it, but not at the expense of other fire prevention tactics.

West Lake Hills will hold up to two more budget hearings for the public to discuss the proposal before adopting a FY 2013 budget.