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College Station council reviews budget proposal, mulls tax rate changes

College Station council reviews budget proposal, mulls tax rate changes

The council will vote on a budget on Sept. 26.

Only $3 for 13 weeks

College Station residents could see a 7.84% property tax increase as part of the city’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 that was released Monday.

The net budget proposal for the city totals more than $341 million, including more than $270 million for operations and maintenance and more than $71 million for the capital budget. The current fiscal year’s budget is about $360 million.  

The tax rate change, if approved, would raise the tax rate to 53.4618 cents per $100 assessed valuation from the current level of 50.5841 cents per $100. For a $280,000 home, which is the average value, city property taxes would go up $108.85.

Last week, Brazos County Judge Duane Peters unveiled a proposed 2020 county budget that includes a 7.44% tax increase.

College Station City Council members are working through the city’s proposed budget in a series of meetings this week. Council members can make changes to the budget proposal over the next few weeks, and two public hearings are scheduled to give residents opportunities to provide feedback to the council on the proposed budget.

City officials said Monday morning that the dip in the capital budget proposal is due in large part to the completion of, or progress on, capital projects including the new police facility scheduled to open in 2020, street improvement projects and work on the Lick Creek wastewater treatment plant.

Mayor Karl Mooney said Monday afternoon that the city is mindful of the forthcoming impacts of the recently passed Senate Bill 2, which permits cities and counties to raise property taxes by no more than 3.5% unless November election approval from voters is obtained.

He described the proposed tax rate increase as a potential way for College Station to invest in its own future as the city continues to grow, and cited data that indicates College Station has a lower property tax rate than most Texas cities of similar size.

“As we grow as a city — and because we had our tax rate and revenue lower than other cities with higher tax rates — we now have to figure out how we can ... still do all the things we have to do,” Mooney said. “We know our wastewater plants are going to need to be updated, and that’s a 20- to 30-million-dollar expenditure. We know our roads continue to get more and more traffic, and we can anticipate what the wear and tear is going to be.”

The city of Bryan’s current property tax rate is about $0.62 per $100 assessed valuation; Mesquite, Pearland and Waco have rates at or above 70 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

College Station City Manager Bryan Woods, Fiscal Director Mary Ellen Leonard and Assistant City Manager Jeff Kersten presented the proposal Monday afternoon to the council and to directors from a number of city departments.

The fiscal year 2020 proposal includes a suggested water fee rate increase of 15%, which would raise the average monthly water bill by about $3.42 — to $26.22 from the current average of $22.80. Leonard presented the fee rate increase to the council in June. She said then that the water fund had experienced stress due to a lack of revenue and that the fee hike would help replenish the fund and allow the city to invest in infrastructure projects.

Annual city sales tax revenue has slowed in the past few years, according to Kersten and Woods. Both individuals said that sales tax has historically been a larger revenue stream in College Station than property taxes, but that the reverse was anticipated for the upcoming fiscal year.

Officials project that revenue from property taxes will make up 35.32% of the fiscal year 2020 general fund revenue, with 34.51% coming from sales taxes.

The net taxable certified value of property is $9.92 billion, a 5.79% increase over 2018. Existing property values increased by 1.88% over 2018. Taxable new value is $308.2 million.

The proposed budget also includes several service level increases, including five new patrol officers, two vehicles and five police assistants for the College Station Police Department. It also includes funds for a second attenuator truck and, if an application for a SAFER grant is approved, funding for six more firefighters and maintenance on the Station 4 building.

City Council members will continue to analyze the proposal during budget workshops that run through Wednesday afternoon. 

City residents will have opportunities to weigh in on the tax rate and budget during public hearings scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 22 and Sept. 12, respectively.

The council will vote on a budget on Sept. 26.

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