By Moses Leos III
For the first time in several years, Kyle residents won’t feel the pinch of steadily rising property tax and utility rates.
However, council’s decision to lower the ad valorem tax rate to 53 cents per $100 evaluation wasn’t met with unanimous support. Hervol held a concern that a decrease now could cause confusion.
“By reducing taxes by one cent, it creates a yo-yo concept to the public,” Mayor Pro-Tem Diane Hervol said. “This year, we are going down one cent. Next year we will be going up six cents … the citizens of Kyle will be confused.”
On Wednesday, the Kyle City Council adopted its fiscal year 2014-2015 budget by a 5-1 vote, with Hervol dissenting. Council also adopted its ad valorem tax rate by a 4-2 vote, with Hervol and council member Tammy Swaton voting against it.
Under Kyle’s $54.8 million budget, $15 million will go to Kyle’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Five million of that goes toward design and easement acquisitions for the five road bond projects approved by voters in 2013. The budget allocates $7.9 million for wastewater improvements for Southside and Bunton Creek.
The Kyle Police Department will see three new officers and two administrative positions. City staff will also see a 3.5 percent cost of living wage adjustment.
Growth in the commercial sector continues for Kyle, as sales tax revenue is projected at $5.17 million.
In addition to the property tax rate decrease, the first in several years, the city’s utility rates will remain unchanged. That’s a departure from the last three years, where the city’s water and wastewater rates jumped 70 and 55 percent respectively.
“This budget reflects a significant investment into our community and redirects our taxpayers’ dollars directly into improved services and enhanced public safety for our residents,” said Kyle Mayor Todd Webster in a statement.
Part of Hervol’s dissention stemmed from an ordinance passed after the first reading of the budget. That ordinance, sponsored by councilmember David Wilson, passed by a 4-2 vote on first reading. A second reading is scheduled for September 16.
According to Webster, the ordinance amends a previously passed ordinance in 2011 that amended the city charter. Council’s new ordinance defines annual operating budget, fund balance and how the reserve fund is calculated. But the ordinance also allows council to transfer money between fund balances.
That opened the door for Wilson to move $160,000 from the general fund into the wastewater utility fund to pay for wastewater improvements in Old Town.
But Hervol questioned the move, saying defining terms should go through the charter review committee and not an ordinance.
With the $160,000 move done after the first reading of the budget, she felt the city’s expenditures were unclear.
“I like things to be clear and I want to know exactly what I’m voting on,” Hervol said.
She also disagreed on the tax rate, saying she didn’t think it would give Kyle residents much of a break.
Hervol also cited projections that show tax rates rising six cents next year to fund one of the road bond projects.
“There are people in Kyle that have been waiting for some of these projects to be funded,” Hervol said. “We increase taxes in trying to fund these projects. It’s time we fund them.”
For Wilson, dealing with the city’s current needs was priority. He believes Kyle will continue to have a “robust economy,” allowing the city to accommodate for what’s ahead.
“You tax for what you need and you let the people keep the money in their pockets to take care of their needs,” he said. “You only tax what you have to.”