Although the City Council initially approved a maximum proposed tax rate of 70 cents per $100 valuation in August, the council settled on a final proposed tax rate of 68.5 cents per $100 valuation on Sept. 11.
The proposed tax rate is an increase over last year’s rate of 68.12 cents per $100 valuation.
“I think it’s wrong,” Council Member Tony Carbone said of a rate increase. “That’s not what I stand for. That’s not what I was elected to do.”
Initially, city staff set a budget with the intention of dropping the tax rate to 68 cents per $100 valuation, which would have lowered the tax rate.
Four council members voted to consider the effect of a rate increase on the budget in order to better fund city operations without dipping into the city’s surplus funds. Council members Carbone and Gary Moore dissented; Trent Perez was absent.
City Council will deliberate on a budget with $78.72 million in expenditures and $79.1 million in revenue prior to its adoption on Sept. 25.
A major ticket item in the budget includes raises for city staff to bring salaries up to the average market value when compared to 19 competitor and peer governmental entities.
City Council could adjust city employee salary schedules based on 100 percent of market value by April, which will cost about $1 million.
“[City staff] are taking care of us, so we need to find a way to take care of them whether it’s a tax increase, budget cuts or a combination,” Council Member David Little said.
Additionally, all existing employees will receive a 2 percent cost of living increase this October.
“Unfortunately, employee compensation are not the only parts of the budget that are underfunded,” Ordeneaux said in support of raising taxes. “Our streets and sidewalks have been underfunded since I’ve been on council. … That’s money that previous generations have invested in this town that we’ve refused to maintain.”
Another major ticket item in the budget was additional staff, which is estimated to add $823,000 in expenditures over the previous fiscal year. Added staff includes police officers and dispatchers, a jailer and firefighters.
City Council held three budget workshops in August and two public hearings on the tax rate in September. The final two public hearings prior to adopting the final budget and tax rate are scheduled for Sept. 18 and Sept. 25.