tyler — The City of Tyler is planning to retain its current property tax rate of 20.8 cents per $100 valuation and focus on maintaining quality services as part of the 2011-2012 proposed budget that was presented by City Manager Mark McDaniel to the Tyler City Council at their meeting on Aug. 10.
“I believe that Tyler’s tax rate is the lowest in the state among cities with at least 15,000 residents,” said City Manager Mark McDaniel. “Through implementation of strategies to enhance efficiency, like Lean Sigma and City University, we believe that we can continue our delivery of quality services without raising the tax rate. This is in spite of the fact that our effective tax rate is higher than the proposed rate due to a decline in existing property values.”
Tyler’s property values dipped a half of one percent last year, however are expected to increase nearly one percent for 2011-2012 due to new construction added to the tax rolls. Sales tax revenues were down nearly eight percent at the end of the last fiscal year. However, they have slowly improved in the current year and are expected to be up at least 3.4 percent by the end of the fiscal year. Since the decline began in 2008, the City has lost $9.1 million in sales tax revenue.
“In 1994 Tyler’s tax rate was 53 cents. In the last 16 years, we have decreased the tax rate by 60 percent; reduced the number of full-time employees, paid off all of our tax supported debt and earned a AAA bond rating,” added McDaniel. “Our focus this year will be to sustain these successes while focusing on the maintenance of the quality services we provide the citizens of Tyler.”
In this fiscal year, the City will focus on addressing maintenance projects that were deferred to meet budget constraints in the last two years and also continuing to collaborate with community partners on industry growth.
“We will continue our planning efforts to make sure we are poised for the future and prioritizing needs given limited resources,” explained McDaniel. “We will also be exploring additional use of technology in meeting citizen needs.”
To continue to balance expenses versus revenues, 20.5 positions will be eliminated from the budget. These are positions that are currently vacant and frozen from last fiscal year.
In addition to maintaining the current tax rate, the City is not planning for any fee adjustments in the General Fund, which is primarily funded by sales and property tax revenue.
“Most people do not realize that property taxes collected from citizens do not even cover Fire services, and that 66 percent of General Fund expenses are related to public safety,” explained Mayor Barbara Bass.
No increase in water or sewer rates is proposed, in spite of additional costs for improvements to the water plants required by state regulatory agencies. However, the City is proposing a $1.50 per month increase in Solid Waste fees for residential service.
“The Solid Waste Department has traditionally helped offset the cost of the residential service through revenue generated in their commercial roll-off services,” explained McDaniel. “Because construction in the community is down – so is commercial revenue. The result is that the residential trash collection program needs to begin to cover more of its directly related costs.”
Tyler will still have one of the lowest residential collection rates in the state at $14.07 per month, as compared to cites like Dallas with a rate of $22.86 or Garland at $16.58, and will continue its twice weekly collection schedule that many cities do not offer.
A 25 cent increase in fixed route bus fares to $1 is also proposed. This will be the first fare increase in at least 25 years.
“I am very pleased that we were able to hold to our current property tax rate,” commented Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass. “Most people know that our tax rate is one of the lowest in the State; however, many of our citizens don’t realize HOW much lower it is. In some cases it is as much as three times lower than cities of comparable size.”
For example, currently the City of Waco has a tax rate of 78.6 cents per $100 valuation; Killeen is 69.5 cents, Abilene is 69.3 cents and Beaumont is at 64 cents.
Efforts to retain the City’s trained workforce include the potential for a productivity increase from zero to three percent for civilians, three percent for sworn personnel, and implementation of the third, and final phase of pay plan study adjustments initiated over three years. These recommendations would be implemented beginning in January 2012 only if sales tax revenues increase by a projected three percent over sales tax collected in the City’s current fiscal year. However, employees may see up to a $110 per month increase in health insurance premiums in January for the “buy-up” option.
Opportunities for public input on the budget are available by attending one of two meetings at Tyler City Hall, 212 N. Bonner Ave. on the following dates:
• Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 9 a.m.
• Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 9 a.m.
Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for the Sept. 14 meeting that is held at 9 a.m. at Tyler City Hall.
From City of Tyler