By CHRISTIN COYNE
Property owners in Willow Park will see a lower tax rate for the first time in several years after the city council voted recently to reduce the ad valorem tax rate by a penny.
With opposition voiced from Mayor Richard Neverdousky and Mayor Pro tem Amy Podany, the council voted 3–1 to adopt a total tax rate of 46.05 cents per $100 valuation for the fiscal year ending in 2014. Councilmember Dan Stalling was absent from the meeting.
The tax rate is currently at 47.05 cents per $100 valuation and city staff proposed leaving the rate unchanged.
The first motion made by councilmember Gene Martin – to set the tax rate at 45.05 cents per $100 valuation – received a tied vote, with Podany and councilmember Brian Thornburg opposing the motion and Martin and councilmember Bernard Suchocki voting for a two cent decrease. Neverdousky broke the tie with vote against.
After discussing the issue in several budget meetings in recent weeks, the council opted to cut contingency funds budgeted for each department. That amount totals approximately $52,000 in the general fund budget, according to City Administrator Matt Shaffstall. Though the staff argued that the contingency funds were created to help better track real expenses within departments and stay within budget, several council members expressed concern that the contingency funds were essentially fat in the budget.
With the one cent cut in ad valorem taxes expected to bring in around $30,000 less than proposed for operating expenses, the city council also voted to move the difference between the cut expenses and the revenue decrease to a line item to help support economic development and worthy community services. The council discussed using the money similar to the way the city’s hotel tax fund, which has grown smaller, has been used in recent years.
“The [fiscal year] 2013-14 budget is balanced,” the council was told in a budget memo. “Normally this wouldn’t be considered a major issue. State law requires cities to submit a balanced budget, but it’s how the city has balanced the budget the last few years that has been an area of concern.”
Amending the current fiscal year budget earlier in the year revealed structural deficits, according to Shaffstall.
“Previous budgets included overestimated revenue projections and use of fund balance reserves to balance the budget,” Shaffstall wrote. “A tremendous amount of time and energy went into ensuring that the budget is balanced using current revenues to cover operating expenses.”
In addition to making sure revenues exceed expenditures, staff said an effort was made to match sources of funding so one-time revenue sources went to one-time expenditures, such as capital improvement projects.
By CHRISTIN COYNE
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