During Tuesday night’s meeting of the Big Spring City Council on 09/10/19, council members held the 2nd public hearing on the proposed property tax rate for Fiscal Year 2019-2020, and a public hearing on the annual budget for the Fiscal Year 2019-2020. No one from the public spoke at either.
Recognition and Announcements
Big Spring Mayor Shannon Thomason read a proclamation of the 90th anniversary of the Big Spring Harley Davidson Dealership, ran by Robert and Vickie Walker.
Big Spring Police Chief recognized Cornerstone Covenant Church for their donation of $2,860.06 to the Big Spring Police Department. The donation will be used to purchase a vehicle wrap for the vehicle that the Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) use while performing duties within the City of Big Spring.
Property Tax Rate
During the first reading of an ordinance adopting a property tax rate of $0.743800/$100 valuation, Mayor Thomason noted that although he had previously agreed with the proposed tax rate in order to anticipate any problems that may occur with the passage of HB 2, he now did not feel that it was necessary to keep the rate that high.
According to Thomason, he had conducted further research and contacted other cities to see how they were moving forward with the new legislature that will take effect next year. After speaking with them, he felt that a new proposed tax rate of $0.72/$100 would be sufficient. Thomason made a motion to adopt this new proposed rate, and it was seconded by Doug Hartman, District 2 Councilmember.
During discussion on this motion, Finance Director Donald Moore advised the council of the financial impact these differing rates would have on the General Fund Balance. With the proposed tax rate of approximately $0.74/$100, the excess in this fund would be approximately $626,000. With the tax rate that was motioned by the mayor, the excess would be only $389,534. This excess money can be used at the council’s discretion, like to fund further infrastructure replacements or if an item comes up later in the year that has not been budgeted.
Property Tax Rates and their Effect on the General Fund Balance.
|Tax Rate Type
||Tax Rate per $100 valuation
||General Fund Balance Excess Amt.
City Manager Todd Darden advised the council that the annual budget for the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 was predicated on $0.72/$100. He noted that the $0.74/$100 was being sought in order to possibly eliminate the possibility of being above the rollback rate next year, because next year’s cap will move to 3.5% instead of the current 8%. If the city approved the $0.72/$100, it’s possible that the rollback rate would be below the effective rate. According to Moore, if the rollback rate is below the effective rate then that is the rate that the city has to adopt. They cannot adopt above that.
Raul Marquez, Jr., District 1 councilmember, pointed out that several new councilmembers had made campaign promises of fixing water lines and sewer lines. He noted that keeping the proposed rate would make a good opportunity for those councilmembers to capitalize on that campaign pitch.
Jim DePauw, District 6, noted that the $0.74 rate is roughly 1.5 cents above last year’s rate. He advised that the council should look at the totality of the tax bill. Two other taxing entities – Howard College and Big Spring ISD – are cutting their rates. Even if the city increases the rate to the proposed tax rate, the local taxpayers will have, roughly, a 10.5 cent cut this year in their total rate.
He reminded that the city has a huge infrastructure needs. The difference between the rates up for discussion is approximately $233,000 for the city. When working the sewer problem along earlier this year, it was found that replacing 1,300 ft. of the 30-inch sewer line was over $300,000. The difference amount could come in handy if a similar problem arose later. The sewer line that was replaced was added in 1980, a newer line, and there’s more line that was installed at that time.
Gloria McDonald, District 4, stated that the council had agreed on the $0.74 because next year’s rollback rate would prohibit the council from doing much with their hands tied.
Camilla Strande, District 5, advised that she didn’t feel very good during their workshop about raising taxes, because she didn’t like it as a concept. Staff recommended the raise because of the potential that could happen next year or future years. Since it would not be an undue burden on the taxpayers because it would be a net decrease in taxes, she thought it was something they needed to do. Strande then asked Thomason to provide evidence from his research to show how the city won’t end up in a “rollback mess”, so she could support it because she didn’t want to raise taxes. She advised that if he could provide no new information, she would have to vote for the $0.74/$100. Thomason did not provide the requested information.
Two, Big Spring residents, also spoke against the rate of $0.74/$100.
The council voted on the motion to set the tax rate at $0.72/$100 value. The council ended this decision in a split vote, with Thomason, McDonald, and Hartman, voting for the motion and Marquez, Strande, and DePauw voted against. (Terry McDaniel, District 3, was not present at the meeting.) With the split vote, the motion failed.
The next motion was to approve the first reading of the tax rate of $0.7438/$100 value was made by DePauw and seconded by Marquez. This motion passed with a 4-2 vote. DePauw, Marquez, Strande, and McDonald voted for the motion, and Hartman and Thomason voted against.
It should be noted that two approved readings for this tax rate must be approved prior to it becoming effective. There must be one more approval for this tax rate to become effective.
Pay increase for BSFD and BSPD
Councilmembers also unanimously approved a 2.5% pay increase to the Big Spring Fire Department. A 5% raise for BSPD classified positions, with the exception of Senior Lieutenant that received a pay increase of 2.5%. The raises will take effect October 1, 2019.
Councilmembers held discussions on the deployment, or specific occasions for implementation, of security personnel or devices. This discussion was led by Marquez.
DePauw lead a discussion on the duties of Mayor and Councilmembers.