The Port Aransas City Council is set to hold a final vote today, Thursday, Sept. 10, to adopt a $7.3 million budget with a 13 percent tax increase.
The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at council chambers at city hall. No formal public hearing is scheduled, but the council never has turned anyone away in the past when they showed up and wanted to speak, said City Manager Michael Kovacs.
On the table is a plan to move forward with a proposed tax rate of 32.2434 cents per $100 valuation. That’s an increase from the current rate of 27.6157 cents. Most of the hike is to help pay off a $4.9 million bond issue approved by voters last year for street and drainage work, said Port Aransas City Manager Michael Kovacs.
The average full-time Port Aransas resident’s home is worth about $240,000, but the property’s taxable value is approximately $192,000 with a homestead exemption, Kovacs said. That resident’s last city tax bill was $538. With the proposed higher tax rate, the resident will pay $619.
The budget wasn’t an easy one to wrangle this year. City staff and council members worked for several weeks to find spending cuts they could make to deal with a projected revenue shortfall of about $360,000.
The city’s revenues normally climb more than $250,000 each year, but they dropped this year due to the economy. Revenue from building permits has slipped, the tax base has flattened and sales tax revenue has dropped.
City officials at first thought they might need to save money by cutting three to six city employees’ positions. They ended up not having to go that far.
As it stands, the budget deletes a building maintenance position, but it didn’t cause anyone to lose a job, because the position was empty.
The budget also eliminates a building department secretary’s position, but the employee in that slot stayed employed by transferring to an open secretary’s position in the public works department.
The $7,362,351 proposed general fund budget is $310,528 less than last year’s budget of $7,672,879.
By contrast, a given year’s budget normally is $250,000 to $300,000 higher than the previous year’s budget, Kovacs said.
Public hearings on the proposed tax rate were held on Aug. 24 and 27, at council chambers. The hearings drew one speaker – an RV park manager who said he was concerned that he might have to raise rates to deal with a tax increase.
Among moves to cut spending, has been a decision to freeze pay raises for city employees until at least December.
Because health insurance costs will be going up, take-home pay actually will drop for employees who cover their dependents on their health plans. The new rates will kick in Dec. 1. That’s when take-home pay will decrease.
The budget includes an array of cuts, such as getting a lower quote from a contractor for mold removal from city hall. The lower quote was $55,000. Previously, the low quote was $87,000. The city also got a quote that was $8,000 lower than a previous one for repair work needed on a fire department brush truck.
The city plans to cut $7,300 from the projected cost of hosting a Texas Municipal League (TML) chapter meeting at the Port Aransas Civic Center this January. The city plans to seek corporate sponsorships to make up for the cut, Kovacs said.
Despite cuts to the budget, it’s likely that citizens won’t notice any decrease in city services, Kovacs said. Residents actually will probably notice more city government activity than normal over the next year, with some big, previously-funded projects getting underway, he said.
Workers will get going in the next several months on the bulk of street and drainage work financed by a voters-approved bond measure last year, Kovacs said.
Construction on a new skate park will take place soon. Phase One of work at the new Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture is expected to wrap up soon, and Phase Two will be starting. Dennis Dreyer Municipal Marina will be getting a new floating dock, reconstructed launches and other work.
“There are a lot of things the city still is going to be doing, even though we’re having a bit of a pinch in revenue,” Kovacs said. “I think folks will be proud of their town.”