The Willow Park City Council and officials went over highlights of the proposed 2019-20 budget and tax rate, and held its first public hearing Tuesday night.
WP City Manager Bryan Grimes first went over what the council has discussed with the tax rate.
“We’ve had two budget workshops that were held in August at various times and there was much debate and discussion over property taxes, the tax rate, and where this council wants to set it. The initial budget that came out over a month ago had a 3.5 percent increase of additional revenue in it. There was some discussion about going up to the cap of 7.9 [percent], there was some discussion about keeping it at 3.5 percent, and at the last council budget workshop there was discussion about keeping the tax rate the same,” Grimes said. “One of the marching orders we got out of that last workshop was to put together a tax rate that would remain the same, but would be calculated differently between M&O and I&S. It has an interest and sinking tax rate of $0.2449 and has a [maintenance and operations] tax rate of $0.2918. That will give you the same tax rate of $0.5367.”
A 3.5 percent increase would generate an additional $55,000 for the city, a 7.9 percent increase would generate $115,000 for the city and keeping the tax rate the same, which is a 6.2 percent increase, would 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 all governmental entities. At that point, anything that goes above the 3.5 percent would have to be voted on by residents.
Grimes then went over highlights from the proposed budget.
“Police and fire make up 94 percent of the general tax revenue — that would be M&O taxes and sales taxes. The budget includes the addition of one new employee salary. The budget also addresses compression issues in both public safety departments,” Grimes said. “It also includes $120,000 for residential road repairs and it has a $375,000 transfer from the enterprise fund [water fund]. Those are the significant notes that came out of the two workshops that we’ve had.”
WP Mayor Pro Tem Lea Young offered up one additional proposal for the council, which was to reduce the road fund from $120,000 to $115,000 and add that $5,000 to the parks board.
“I think it would be really beneficial for us to start funding a very small amount to our parks board. Our parks board would be able to plan for an event this next year as we get the playground online with what we’ve already funded through the tax note earlier this year,” Young said. “Eventually, we’re going to need a parks department for maintenance and this is a very small amount to show we’re headed in that direction and that we’re serious about our parks department.”
WP Place 5 Council member Gary McKaughan said he discovered a $15,000 spreadsheet math error in the fire department’s budget Monday night and Grimes said if that is confirmed, that money can then go into parks.
“So option one is if we have a calculation error in the fire department budget, we take that $15,000 and put it in parks,” Grimes said. “Option two is if the fire department budget is true and there is no mistake, then we take $5,000 out of roads and put it in parks.”
The error will be looked into this week and the findings will be presented at the Sept. 17 public hearing.
During the public hearing, WP resident Marcy Galle expressed concerns about the budget.
“Since 2015 my Willow Park property taxes have increased 53 percent. Willow Park has almost doubled our debt service over the last two years and that’s just the general fund. We went from $810,000 to $1.5 million. I’m against the $375,000 transfer coming from water — in my mind the general fund is still at a deficit of $372,000. Water customers should not be supporting deficit spending through the general fund,” Galle said. “There is a reduction of $132,000 in personnel expenses from the current year and the water fund shows an increase in the same amount, plus $32,000, so I’m assuming we’re adding a full time employee for the water department? Which employees were moved over to water?”
Grimes said there is not a full time employee being added to the water department and he explained that 50 percent of the salaries for himself, Assistant City Manager Bernie Parker, Communications and Marketing Specialist Rosealee Kertok and Finance Director Candy Scott, have been moved from the general fund over to the water fund.
“The justification is that we roughly spend 50 percent of our time dealing with water and wastewater issues,” Grimes said.
Galle asked additional questions about increasing franchise fees, permitting fees for developmental services and the water fund reserves, to which Grimes said he would get answers for her this week.
No additional residents spoke during the public hearing.
The next public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 at city hall and the council will adopt the budget and tax rate on Sept. 24.
The proposed budget and tax rate information can be found by visiting the city of Willow Park website at willowpark.org.