Weatherford Democrat

August 15, 2013

Council backs off tax hike

Proposed ad valorem increase was to fund additional street costs; officials will seek other funding means


Weatherford Democrat

— By BRIAN SMITH



Weatherford residents will not be looking at a potential 1.35-cent property tax increase after council members voted Tuesday not to conduct public hearings on the subject.

Having public hearings on the proposed increase would have been required. Approving the measure would not have meant the council was for or against the measure but would have been simply an administrative way to move the process along, according to Director of Management and Budget Chad Janicek.

Increasing the tax rate from 46.36 to 47.71 cents per $100 valuation would have raised approximately $230,000, according to Janicek. The monies were scheduled to go into funding for the city’s streets.

Janicek made the proposal Aug. 6 during the first look at the fiscal 2014 budget. If approved, the increase would have meant about an increase of about $17 per year in property taxes for the average homeowner.

Talk on increasing street funding began after a report stated the city would need to more than double its $663,000 street maintenance budget to keep its streets in overall good condition. In the fiscal Year 2014 budget is consideration of taking  an estimated 1 percent growth in sales tax funds and dedicate that to street maintenance.

Council member Waymon Hamilton made the motion to keep the tax rate the same with Heidi Wilder, who was critical of a potential sales tax increase when the idea was brought up at last week’s meeting, seconding the motion. The motion passed 4-1 with Mayor Dennis Hooks casting the dissenting vote.

Janicek said the council is considering other ways to raise the $230,000, possibly through cuts in other areas.

The council is having its initial budget work session Saturday at Chandor Gardens. A final vote on the budget is scheduled Sept. 24 and the budget goes into effect Oct. 1.



Other business

In other action, council members approved a settlement agreement with Charter Communications, ending a nearly two-year fight over franchise fee revenue.

A review of franchise fees discovered an underpayment of fees in the amount of $59,644.38, which was paid. Disputed late fees and non-compliance with a pole attachment agreement forced the city to take legal action against Charter in September 2012.

Those fees were eventually paid by Charter, which was assessed a $150,000 penalty assessment, and was the last item to be paid, according to Director of Electric Utilities Joe Farley’s staff report.

Council members also approved:

• Extending school zones on Texas Drive and Silverstone Drive.

• Establishing stop intersections at Hanover Street and West Fifth Street along with Garden Lane and Old Dicey Road and a yield intersection at Caroline and Jodie Drives.

• Reappointed council members Craig Swancy and Hamilton to the Weatherford Economic Development Board.