In a 5-2 vote—with Council Members Catherine Lewis and Jim Hotze dissenting—the council approved the tax rate during its Oct. 4 meeting, which will raise close to $22.3 million in revenue for the city, over $718,000 more than taxes imposed last year, according to agenda documents.
The tax rate approval comes on the heels of approval of Bellaire’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget, with general fund revenue totaling almost $23.2 million and expenditures coming in shy of $23 million.
In the weeks leading up to the approval of the budget, the council held four budget workshops along with its budget public hearing.
During the Oct. 4 meeting, council members such as Nathan Wesely expressed frustration with how little savings and operational efficiencies could be found during the budget process.
“I was very disappointed in the process,” he said. “We had the opportunity to have each department come forward and tell us how they were going to be more efficient and save some money, and all we heard were presentations on how we were going to spend more money.”
A key topic of conversation raised by council members during the meeting was on determining just how much or how little of a budget reserve the council would be willing to accept if it wanted to lower the proposed tax rate and save residents some dollars.
“To me, it really comes down to how conservative of a council do we want to be with those funds?” Mayor Andrew Friedberg said. “Do we want to shave it down to the bare minimum?”
Hotze was in favor of a lower rate in order to provide some relief for Bellaire residents who will see a 9% increase in their water rate, and 7% increases in their wastewater and solid waste rates in the upcoming fiscal year.
The rate increases were approved as part of the FY 2021-22 budget process, prompted by an independent firm-recommended $448,000 increase in the city’s annual enterprise fund to general fund transfer that the city performs to help pay for administrative staff who handle the enterprise fund’s billing needs.