The San Marcos city council held a second public hearing Sept. 20 adopting the city’s 2022-23 fiscal year budget and tax rate.

The budget passed 4-3, with council members Maxfield Baker, Alyssa Garza and Saul Gonzales voting against, represents a 14.50% increase over the 2021-22 budget—about $37.70 million—totaling $298,144,470. Water, wastewater and electric utility rates will remain the same while storm water rates are set to increase by 6.5%, according to city documents.

The proposed general fund revenue is just over $96 million while the expenditures total $107.6 million. The majority of the expenditures come from personnel services at $66.4 million while the majority of the revenue comes from taxes at almost $80 million.

Debt service, enterprise and other special revenue bonds add up to the $298.6 million mark to balance out the $298.14 million in expenses.

The budget proposal was weighed against maintaining the current tax rate of $0.6030 per $100 valuation or reducing the tax rate. Due to increases in property value, keeping the same tax rate means a 10.5% increase in taxes over the “no new revenue” rate of $0.5459. At the first budget hearing on Sept. 6, council voted to keep the FY2020-21 rate of $0.5930 as a floor for discussions.

City staff outlined an additional roughly $700,000 slated for public safety to hire additional officers in the city’s fire and police departments as the defining difference between the tax rates.

Two other scenarios were presented to the council by city staff that hinged on whether to keep about $700,000 in public safety hires, with the $0.6030 rate allowing for six new public safety position hires, which Interim City Manager Stephanie Reyes said were allocated for four fire department staff and two police department staff; a one-half cent reduction of the tax rate with the ability to hire three public safety officers; or a full one-cent reduction that would add no new public safety staff.

Some council members voiced concern on the additional tax burden keeping the tax rate at $0.6030 would have on the poorest residents. Council Member Saul Gonzales mentioned growing up in San Marcos and how his mother struggled to pay taxes.

“My mother worked at the university as a maid and never made very much money at all. But every year she would have to go to different finance companies just to get money for the taxes. And I see other people doing that as well. It is tough,” he said. “I just want to make sure that you know why this decision is so difficult for me.”

Council Member Shane Scott said the need for greater public safety concerns, such as violent crime, were at the top of his mind and what he has heard from constituents.

“To me this seems like the only logical way to go. ... As our community grows services as more money comes in, allowing the pull from that diversity to be able to help the poor more, to be able to have more programs for people that are [in need],” he said. “But without that [public safety] we're not gonna be able to because if you have your schools, or any of these issues when people decide to come here, if they don't feel safe, it's just not going to happen. So that's the biggest thing I still hear today is public safety.”

According to city staff, council needed a super-majority of five votes in favor of the tax rate even though it was not changing from the FY2021-22 rate. Gonzales flipped his vote from dissenting earlier in the evening on the budget and voted with the majority on the tax rate.