The Willow Park City Council continued discussions on the tax rate this week going between a 3.5 percent, a 7.9 percent revenue increase or keeping the total rate the same, which is a 6.2 percent revenue increase.
The city’s current tax rate is $0.5367 per $100 valuation and with a 3.5 percent revenue increase, would decrease the total rate to $0.5286. If the council went with a 7.9 percent revenue increase the total rate would slightly increase to $0.5401.
A 3.5 percent increase would generate $55,000 in additional revenue and a 7.9 percent increase would generate $115,000 in additional revenue.
“I’ve talked with other cities and the 7.9 percent would help us move faster to hire new firemen or whatever we need, it will get us there faster,” WP Mayor Doyle Moss said. “If we don’t take action this year we’ll be further behind next year, I think we’ll be worse off next year, so to me it’s negligent to not do 7.9 percent.”
WP City Manager Bryan Grimes said with a 3.5 percent increase, 94 percent of residents’ property taxes will go to public safety.
“So 94 percent of the total tax revenue is going to public safety, so obviously that’s a significant amount. We’re estimating that the M&O tax will be from $1.5 million to $1.55 million, somewhere in there, that in it of itself will pay for the police department and a little bit of the fire department,” Grimes said. “When you add in sales tax that gets you to $2.6 million and your total public safety budget it $2.4 million, so that’s 94 percent.”
WP Place 2 Council member Amy Fennell said that’s why sales tax is very important for the city.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to attract businesses and get that sales tax up,” Fennell said. “We are at an advantage being on the interstate and that is going to be our bread and butter, and enable us to get more firefighters, to get more equipment we need, to be a grown up city. We’re doing right by the people here.”
But Place 1 Council member Leah Young said she is not in favor of anything that increases the tax rate.
“I don’t favor anything over last year’s rate. I’m for something below last year’s total rate, so I don’t favor going up to the full 7.9 [percent] when that’s an increase,” Young said. “Our citizens are already going to see an impact because their values went up, our personal value went up 10 percent, so taxing at the same rate already taxes them higher with a value increase for most of our citizens. I really don’t see that it’s necessary for us to go anywhere over what we taxed a total rate of last year. We can make a budget work with last year’s rate or below.”
Keeping the tax rate the same would be a 6.2 percent increase and generate $90,000 for the city.
Senate Bill 2, which goes into effect next year, will put a 3.5 percent tax increase cap on governmental entities. Anything above a 3.5 percent increase would have to be voted on by residents.
“I think this cap is indirectly affecting us and I think taking it up to $0.5401 is being more proactive,” Moss said. “I don’t know another city in Parker County that’s staying at the 3.5 percent [this year], and I’m not doing it because everybody’s doing it, I’m just thinking of public safety and down the road what the legislature does. We lobbied hard against this cap and it didn’t work, so that’s what my thoughts are.”
But Young said other cities and the county are able to go up to the full 7.9 percent because it will still give them a total rate under what their current rate is.
“The other cities, the county, everyone else is able to go down on their rate and go up to the 7.9 percent, we’re talking about going above our rate and going to 7.9 percent,” Young said. “It’s a different argument in my opinion to say that we want to increase our total rate to max allowed when other groups are doing it but they’re also able to lower their rate and do that.”
The council decided they wanted to see more information on keeping the tax rate the same as last year.
The city will hold a budget and tax rate public hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 at city hall.