By Betsy Dolan
Property tax rates will stay the same for Missouri City residents in the upcoming fiscal year after the city council unanimously approved the $31.9 million dollar 2013 General Fund Budget during their June 19 regular meeting.
Wes Vela, Director of Finance for Missouri City, told the council that the city is projected to bring in $31.4 million dollars in revenue and spend $31.9 million, leaving a $483,213 deficit which will be paid from the surplus balance in the general fund. Vela also outlined two new revenue sources–a Solid Waste Franchise Fee which is expected to generate $376,000 and an Emergency Response Fee, which will be charged for the expense of public safety response to all accidents and is estimated to bring in $50,000.
The FY 2013 budget is $230,000 less than last year’s budget and the largest increase in spending was $233,250 for fuel, oil and lubricants.
Major expenditures for Missouri City in FY 2013 include:
• $3 million to build and equip a new fire station in Sienna Plantation
• Outfitting a police mini-station on Texas Parkway
• $1.4 million in drainage projects
• $1.7 million on utilities
• $2.2 million on the Lexington Boulevard expansion
• $700,000 for a new animal shelter
• $335,000 for landscaping around City Hall
In the discussion surrounding the property tax rate, which is currently at $0.5284 for the second straight year, Vela told the council that the FY 2013 budget would increase the amount to $0.54571, which is an estimate as the certified values won’t be available until the end of July. He suggested that by keeping the debt service rate at the current $0.18067, the city could maintain the current tax rate and not implement an increase for the upcoming fiscal year.
“It means that we would eat into the Debt Service Fund Balance but if we did that we would still yield $3.9 million dollars which is 46% of our annual debt service,” Vela said. “I don’t think the city’s rating is going to be bad but our concern is that we are doing it time and time and time again.”
The largest piece of the General Fund expenditures, 69% or $22.1 million belongs to compensation and benefits for city employees–a 1.9% increase over 2012. Employees received no pay increases in 2010 or 2011 but were eligible for a 2.75% increase in 2012. The FY 2013 budget has no pay increase proposed but Councilman Jerry Wyatt, At Large Position 1, expressed his wish that any additional savings from keeping the tax rate and debt service rate the same be passed onto the city’s employees.
“We are asking our people to do more with less,” Wyatt told the council. “We have to stay competitive and not be a training ground so they can go somewhere else.”
The new budget takes effect on July 1.