City of Willow Park

The Willow Park City Council recently held a budget workshop with a focus on the fire and police department proposed budgets and a discussion on tax rate options.

The primary focus of the workshop was discussions about additional public safety personnel.

WP Fire Chief Mike LeNoir presented his proposed budget with a focus on personnel needs, which were initially included, but were removed bringing to total to $1,124,136.

“Initially I’d asked for six personnel, went down to three personnel and now we’re down to just the flat budget of this year — not asking for any fire fighters,” LeNoir said.

WP City Manager Bryan Grimes said the question was sustainability because hiring additional firefighters is not a one-time expense.

“To be clear, we could probably add them for this budget and it wouldn’t be problematic, but year two, year three, year four, is where you kind of ask yourself if you’re comfortable adding this every year because it’s a legacy cost and not a one-time expenditure,” Grimes said.

WP Police Chief Carrie West then presented her $1,368,847 proposed budget.

“So the first draft of our budget was almost $1.5 million and that was with one new position, but we took that out,” West said. “The steps between each officer are 3 percent, so for corporal is 3 percent above the highest paid officer and so on for sergeant.”

LeNoir’s budget did include a 5 percent pay raise for current employees and West is proposing a 3 percent pay increase in her budget, but the council and Grimes were unsure about the sustainability of hiring additional firefighters or officers at this time.

“The bottom line is that taxes and the general fund will not sustain what we need to do, and sales tax isn’t there yet,” WP Place 5 Council Member Gary McKaughan said.

But Grimes said by no means are they giving up on the requests.

“I think it’s important to remember that we’re the only city outside Weatherford that has a full time police department and a full time fire department. I think that gets lost by a lot of people and it’s hard to fund two public safety agencies like this,” Grimes said. “I do appreciate what Mike and Carrie have done and I think they have probably been disappointed in this process. If I was in their shoes I would be disappointed as well. I’m not giving up yet, but it’s going to be a hard nut to crack. We’re going to have to figure out a way to hire staff.”

Back in June, Willow Park received its certified value from the appraisal district, which was $612 million and was anticipating the tax rate would decrease. The city’s current tax rate is $0.53 per $100 valuation.

“You can keep the same tax rate you’re at right now and bring in roughly 7 percent more money. This is what our friends in Aledo are doing, it’s what Parker County is doing,” Grimes said. “What we did last year was we put a spread sheet together to calculate what rate we needed to charge to bring in a certain amount of money. So, it’s up to the council, do they want to increase revenues by 3.5 percent? Do they want to increase by 7.9 percent? What number does council want to hit and that’s the discussion we ran into. If they wanted to go up to the full 7.9 [percent], it would bring in roughly $60,000, it’s not a whole lot in a $3 million budget.”

But there are different options for the council and a proposed rate has not yet been determined.

Another budget workshop will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at city hall and two public hearings will be held on Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 before the council adopts the budget and tax rate on Sept. 24.

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