‘This is a long-term decision:’ Pflugerville City Council debates proposed tax rate, implications of Senate Bill 2

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Cities across the state of Texas are weighing the implications of Senate Bill 2 as they prepare final property tax rate and budget proposals for fiscal year 2019-20. City officials said Pflugerville is no exception.

Pflugerville City Council held an hour-long discussion regarding the city’s proposed tax rate and budget at its Sept. 10 meeting, following the city’s first public hearing for its proposed tax rate. The budget discussion, initially held prior to the public hearing, was reopened by Council Member Doug Weiss following citizens’ voiced disapproval of the proposed rate increase, listed at $0.5045 per $100 of taxable value.

“Cities and churches should never have excess money,” Council Member Jeff Marsh said. “The only problem with that, churches get donations and cities don’t. Is there some kind of middle ground we can meet? I think so.”

Marsh recommended cutting down on the portion of the budget allotted to city council, adding that he felt $30,000 for the council’s annual budget could be trimmed down to $5,000 and could then allocate the funds elsewhere to better serve the community.

Weiss, regarding the 7% sales tax revenue the city has factored into its budget, said the city has underestimated the amount it has collected in sales tax in years prior. He requested that city staff revisit the budget proposal and adjust based on a 9% sales tax revenue assumption and consider the trimming they could do based on the recalculation.

Council Member Jim McDonald said he stood behind recommendations provided by city staff and the city’s finance and budget committee, which includes volunteer citizens.

“This is a long-term decision,” McDonald said. “This could have longer term impact given the state requirements based on what we are able to do.”

He pointed to the uncertainty cities now face following the passing of Senate Bill 2 in the Texas State Legislature, which limits a city’s ability to raise its maximum property tax rate without voter approval. The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott June 12, will go into effect in fiscal year 2020-21.

“In this time of uncertainty, I think it’s important to go with the recommendation of our finance and budget committee,” McDonald said. “I caution us in terms of thinking about the fiscal health of our city.”

City Manager Sereniah Breland said the budget she presented to council for consideration was “extremely conservative.”

“This is not an egregious budget,” Breland said. “This is years of deferring.”

Breland said if council considered adjusting sales tax revenue estimates, she would want to prioritize the $1.7 million in funding already cut from the current budget proposal before considering lower the tax rate.

“I can cut, cut, cut,” Breland said. “You’re just cutting services.”

Mayor Victor Gonzales reflected on the number of residents who had spoken during the Sept. 10 public hearing, saying their concerns needed to be taken into consideration when finalizing the city’s budget and tax rate.

“I think we have to be attentive to that,” he said. “Is it going to be painful? Yes, definitely.”

Following council deliberations, Breland said she will add an agenda item to the council’s Sept. 17 meeting to discuss and consider revisiting a reduced scope budget proposal.

Marsh credited the work of previous city councils and city staff who made Pflugerville a desirable place to live and contributed to the city’s growing population, while also adding that the restraints of Senate Bill 2 have complicated how current and future councils will consider tax rate increases and budget season moving forward.

“How do you do the stuff the citizens want,” Marsh said, “while doing your damndest to keep the tax rate low?”

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  1. “How do you do the stuff the citizens want,” Marsh said, “while doing your damndest to keep the tax rate low?”

    Please! You voted to raise taxes by the MAXIMUM ALLOWED BY LAW (without a vote – which you know you would have ZERO chance of winning)

    Please don’t lie and say you are “doing your damndest”

  2. Correction

    They ALL voted to increase it by maximum without a vote of the people (it is their money after all, not the council or cities money at all) so frankly I’m voting ALL of them out if this passes.

    Weiss and Gonzalez are both up in November. Pass it and cancel your campaigns because you wont win on that garbage.

  3. Weiss used to be president of the economic development council. Their primary job was to lower residential property taxes by luring new tax paying businesses to the city. When I hear that they are now going to raise the property tax rate, even by a small amount, on top of rising property values, it sounds like Weiss’ economic development boondoggle failed miserably. Not to worry though, Weiss said in comments right here in Community Impact, some time ago, something like “If we don’t take your money, somebody else will, so you might as well give it to us”. How arrogant!

    I agree with Andrew, it is time to pick new city leaders. What politician in their right mind would vote to raise taxes just before an election?

  4. Did anyone commenting read the article? Does anyone commenting realize the consequences of Senate Bill 2? Which city services do you want curtailed, so you can later complain about how inadequate they are? The drama queens who think the $20-something annual tax increase is going to impoverish them can’t figure out why council voted unanimously a couple months before an election? Maybe they did it because it’s the prudent, long-term thinking thing to do, rather than just capitulating to a mob made of people who haven’t really looked at the numbers, but instead react in a knee jerk fashion.

    • So your position is that a well planned budget just happens to come out to exactly 1 penny less than would require an election?

      Why has this not been required in past years? Why are we not seeing tax reductions with the increase in businesses in Pflugerville?

      A former mayor (hopefully he decides to run again) spoke up saying that this goes against what prior city councils were doing.

      It is the councils job to justify to the voters why they need to increase taxes. They have so far failed to do so.

  5. The bleeding has to stop somewhere…….and soon. City Manager is a piece of work. Throws ‘I’ll cut services’ in the taxpayers face – scare tactic. I’ve had to trim my budget way down and I’m sure the City can too.

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Kelsey Thompson
Kelsey Thompson is the reporter for Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto, where her work focuses on education, city government and community development. Originally from upstate New York, she relocated to Austin after graduating from Syracuse University in May 2019.
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