FULL INTERVIEW: City of Abilene explains how tax and fee changes for fiscal year 2022-2023 will affect residents – KTAB – BigCountryHomepage.com | Region & Cash

ABILENE, TX (BigCountryHomepage.com) – At Wednesday morning’s City Council meeting to discuss Abilene’s 2022-2023 budget, several issues were raised that may confuse some residents.

Big Country Homepage spoke to City Manager Robert Hanna and Councilor Shane Price to explain how Abilenians could be affected by a reduction in the property tax rate and an increase in road maintenance fees.

Below is a full transcript between Hanna, Council Member Price and Big Country Homepage reporter Tyler Henderson.

Henderson:
“[Could you] Talking about the budget, the impact it will have on the city and some of the key points raised this morning?

Hannah:
“So my job was to put together a budget that would fund Current Services, which I did. But I also want to take care of the workers, employees of this organization.

“Everybody sees high gas prices, everyone sees high food prices… And that’s why I’ve asked the council to consider a 6 percent pay rise for non-public employees. You approved that on first reading so I think what we adopted – at least on first reading – is a budget that will fund ongoing services, increase the amount of money that is available for road maintenance and you will see that significant dollars are earmarked for road maintenance improvements in the future and nurturing of our workforce.”

Council Member Price:
“And one of the challenges with the workforce is that there are many other companies offering higher salaries and so it’s difficult to retain or recruit new talent that’s needed to deliver the services that citizens need.” … And so we’re trying to address that as well.”

Henderson:
“I bet it’s hard to find good work anymore, good workers, and it’s kind of everywhere. But let’s talk about the long-term goals.

“I know you said that in 2024 there’s going to be a significant jump in some water utilities… Stuff like that, some of the improvements that are being made. Walk me through that because it’s a pretty big deal.”

Hannah:
“Certainly. So the council passed a 20-year master plan that will iterate through the utility’s infrastructure and make important improvements over time. And we pre-funded that with an ordinance that had a planned option for this next fiscal year.

“So you’re going to see that in the budget, and there’s about $8 million in capital improvements. So because we are pre-funding some of these expenses, we are really saving money to pay for this in cash as well, if we can.

“So in fiscal ’24 you’re going to see about $30 million in capital expenditures. Some of it will be cash, some of it may be debt service. But the bulk of it will be cash. And we did that on purpose to reduce the amount of debt servicing that we spend, and actually to allow citizens to save, because we’re not going to pay interest on any of this.

“So if you look at the total cost of the master plan, we’ve saved hundreds of millions of dollars that way over time because we don’t have to pay interest.”

Council Member Price:
“Right. One of the things that will come into play in the coming year is the increase in road maintenance fees… And as was reported a few months ago when we received a report from Fugro [Pavement Engineering], our payment condition index has actually fallen. And so we’re essentially trying to turn the tide and make enough improvements to raise that index.

“And everyone knows the streets in their neighborhood that are not in the best condition. And so we touched on many of the larger streets; Ambler and Industrial. And TxDOT has put money into Treadaway and other bigger streets.

“The challenge now is to get into the neighborhoods and get rid of the potholes and substandard conditions that exist there. We have to have the money to do that.

“Just like with the major capital improvements that Robert Hannah just mentioned, there’s an option to either borrow money and then pay interest on top of the actual improvements made, or use the road maintenance fund – which we’ve had over the years and.” keep paying as we go and make these improvements so we get better and better roads.

Henderson:
“And obviously the main concern for every resident is, well, ‘what is it going to do with my taxes? Will they rise, will they fall? what will it do?”

Hannah:
“Secure.”

Henderson:
“Can you address that a bit?”

Hannah:
“I can. So your headset has two parts. One part we control, one part we don’t.

“The part we don’t control goes up, and that’s your estimated value. We have no influence, no control over it. That’s how it’s designed.

“On the headset side that we have. The city has the option to increase or decrease the tax rate. And so I asked the Council to consider a rate cut and the Council approved that today at first reading.

“So the tax rate was 0.7875 I think and it goes down to 0.7621.

“Your tax liability – my tax bill will go up because my estimated values ​​will go up, right? So I’m not going to suggest that people’s taxes go down. It may in some sense, in some cases, but the majority of people saw an increase in rating.

“We’re trying to recognize this and lower the tax rate in responsible ways to offset the pain people will feel with the tax bill.”

Council Member Price:
“Right, and just like the road maintenance fee, there will be a $2.00 per month increase for apartments.

“And if you’re low-to-middle income, the fee stays the same, which is $1.75. So if you think you are eligible but have not yet applied for this reduction in your road maintenance fee, please contact the city. Who is the best contact person?

Hannah:
“Neighborhood Assistance Office. Leticia [Reeves], she is the best person for that. She is our department manager over there and can help you get this application through the process.”

Henderson:
“Big. I mean, this is all just an attempt to save people money and I know the city of Abilene is really trying to do that.

“Well, is there anything else you’d like to address that was kind of a key point here that’s looking forward to the 2022-23 budget?”

Hannah:
“For me, it was really just about funding existing services and taking care of people. And I appreciate the Council’s considerations on this. They listened and I think they passed a good budget.”

Price:
“And not specifically because of the budget, but the new downtown hotel is expected to open in April next year and we’re really looking forward to that. And it will be in time for graduation, in time for Western Heritage, and in time for CALF Festival. So it’s pretty exciting to look forward to.”

The adoption of the new budget is scheduled for August 11th.

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