City, school crunch numbers
Expect to pay about $22 more in city property taxes this year, if your home is valued at $275,000.
That's the bottom line from the increased property valuations imposed by the county appraisal district, more taxes from new properties coming on line and a proposed drop in the city's tax rate.
(Actually, the average appraised value of a home in Port Aransas is $237,377, but the city uses the $275,000 value for ease in computing.)
City Manager Michael Kovacs will ask the city council on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to set the city's tax rate at 28.577 cents per $100 valuation, down from the current rate of 29.7 cents per $100 valuation.
Even so, Kovac's budget for next year projects expenditures of $25,524,946. That's up $8.9 million from this year's estimated expenditures of $16,618,732.
But in the new budget, construction - much of which voters approved in an election in November - will go up nearly $6.3 million and spending on the Charlie's Pasture Nature Preserve will rise nearly $1.3 million. The construction, mostly on streets and drainage, will be paid for through general obligation bonds yet to be issued by the city. Nature preserve building is financed by $2 million in city certificates of obligation approved by the council in 2004.
Principal and interest on the general obligation bonds are expected to total $236,700 next year, while principal and interest on the certificates of obligation will be about $188,813.
Of the street and drainage construction, only the Oleander Street project isn't being paid for through the bond issue. Instead, the council decided last year that it was important and urgent enough to be financed directly out of the city's reserves.
That will reduce reserves next year from $11,021,261 to $1,862,109.
Kovacs pointed out that while the city can control some taxes by reducing the tax rate, that doesn't help property owners as much as they might think.
"This simplistic argument ignores the true appraisal/tax issue, which is the exportation of funds from the island to the school funding system, and also to county-wide uses," he said.
"If the city slashes its own taxes below the effective rate, it saves minimal funds for its citizens, and would have to sacrifice local needed infrastructure improvements, maintenance and key services, while the off-island tax shift would continue."
Kovacs added that growth in Port Aransas over the past year provided the equivalent of about one cent in tax growth. That means growth alone paid for such things as new air packs for firefighters, a new chassis for one of the city's ambulances and matching funds for new police communications and technology.
"Those are costs that we didn't have to pass on to the citizens in taxes," he said.
Among the major expenditures in next year's budget:
• Police staffing and merit/certification pay -- $125,178
• Police communications and technology -- $586,000 (only $140,000 of this is local matching funds)
• Charter reserve (mandated by the city charter) -- $750,000
• Nature preserve permitting, design and partial construction -- $1,326,000
• Improvements to beach access roads (Beach Street and Access Road 1) -- $220,934
• Harbor facilities -- $1,787,500
• "Dead street" replacement (streets that must be rebuilt instead of repaired) -- $1,003,022
• General obligation bonds and drainage projects -- $2,638,000
• Oleander Street project -- $1,500,000
• Community Park enhancements -- $109,800
• Sanitation service upgrades -- $130,963
Residents will be able to comment on the proposed tax rate and budget at public hearings scheduled for the city council chamber on Thursday, Aug. 23 and Monday, Aug. 27. Both hearings are scheduled for 5 p.m.
The special council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to adopt the tax rate and the budget is also set for 5 p.m.