By BRIAN SMITH
While nothing has been decided yet, Weatherford council members were informed a tax increase might be needed as part of the upcoming fiscal year budget.
Director of Management and Budget Chad Janicek said during Tuesday night’s council meeting a modest property tax increase of two cents per $100 valuation would enable city departments such as parks and recreation and public works to restore budgets hit hard by cutbacks in 2008. The two cents would generate an approximate $300,000, Janicek said.
In present budget talks with department heads, Janicek said parks and recreation officials had asked to put back two of five positions cut. Janicek said parks and rec had done more with less for a number of years, as had many city departments.
Janicek said in those meetings with department heads, priorities were explained and pitched for. A number of prioritization sessions were held, with department heads “looking under every rock” for things to be cut with help from the city’s strategic plan, which was approved earlier this year.
With the final budget expected to be brought before the council at its Aug. 6 meeting, council members were less than thrilled with the prospect of a potential tax increase. Council member Heidi Wilder wanted to make sure all the rocks had been looked under.
“I want to make sure those departments get those monies, but I’m not fond of the idea of a tax increase to do it,” Wilder said.
Wilder suggested reprioritizing some programs along with not funding something that had been funded in the past.
City Manager Jerry Blaisdell assured the council that a proposed tax increase is not something he took lightly but said he was unsure on how to meet the goals council asked him to meet without one.
“I’ll do what you ask me to do,” Blaisdell said.
Before any tax increase, public hearings on the issue would be held, Janicek said.
Weatherford citizens are being asked for opinions on capital improvement projects. Council members agreed to form a citizens capital advisory committee. The committee was formed to help prioritize projects outlined in the city’s Transportation Thoroughfare Plan, which was approved in April.
That plan highlighted a number of long and short-term projects considered critical for growth in the city over the next few years. Director of Capital Transportation Projects Terry Hughes said a similar committee was formed in 2006 and met for about three months, identifying a number of capital projects to help meet demand for services.
Staff members will present committee members with cost estimates for projects and examine a number of funding alternatives. Hughes said getting the thoughts of the community and as many eyes on the plan and as many ideas as possible can only help.
“We want people who want what’s best for the city as a whole,” Hughes said.
Hughes said criteria for the committee included having a cross section of community members with a track record of community interest. Committee members should also have experience or knowledge to make a contribution and be willing to listen to the needs and wants of others, according to a staff report.
Council members were asked to select four members each and come back in a month with names for possible selection to the committee.