San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

STAFF REPORT

It’s city budget time again. The San Marcos City Council has scheduled several public hearings as it sets the fiscal year 2014 budget, property tax rate and utility rates.

City staff is proposing a $166.5 million city budget to be supported by a property tax rate of 53.02 cents per $100 of taxable value. It would be the sixth straight year that the city operates on that same property tax rate.

The City of San Marcos will hold public hearings on the 2014 property tax rate, the proposed municipal budget, and proposed changes in electric and water rates.

The council also is considering a 1.3 percent hike on the average residential electric bill, which would thereby increase by $1.56 per month, as well as a new schedule for water rates that would decrease rates for customers who use small amounts of water and larger rates for those who use larger amounts. Rates for residential customers using 5,000 gallons per month would decrease by 0.9 percent for water and 0.4 percent for wastewater, while bills for other customers would increase at rates depending on how much they use.

Hearings on the property tax rate will take place on Aug. 20 and Sept. 3. Hearings on the budget, electric rates and water rates will take place on Sept. 3.

The proposed property tax rate would generate $16.2 million total tax revenue from properties on the tax roll. The roll has grown by 6.84 percent to $3.06 billion, including $103.6 million in new improvements and $92.3 million in rising values for existing properties in San Marcos.

The average taxable value of a homestead in San Marcos last year was $120,280. On the new tax roll, the average value is $122,364. Using the current tax rate, the average tax bill would increase by $11.04, or from $634.73 to $648.77.

The effective rate — the property tax rate that would generate the same revenues as last year—would be $0.5138 per $100 value based on the new tax roll. Adopting the effective rate would put the average homeowner’s tax bill at $628.71.

The $166.5 million budget would represent a 3.5 percent increase over the 2013 budget. The city’s annual budget supports public safety, general government, planning and development, engineering and capital projects, public services, parks and recreation, library, electric, water, wastewater and drainage utilities, and special services.

The plan will add four new police officers, four firefighters, and four 911 operators. Other additions include $400,000 for sidewalk construction and repairs, $1.2 million for street maintenance, $200,000 for park maintenance and projects, and $50,000 additional for street sweeping. Assistant City Manager Steve Parker said the additional services are supported by increases in sales tax revenues and property values.

The Citizen Utility Advisory Board appointed earlier this year recommended a change in the block structure and rate design to incentivize water conservation. Customers using more than 5,000 gallons per month would see a range of increases in water and sewer charges from 1.3 percent to 15 percent, depending on water consumption. The city will continue offering lifeline rates to qualifying customers.

City electric customers would using 1,500 kilowatt hours per month would see the 1.3 percent ($1.56 per month). The city’s customer charge and energy charge are proposed to rise by 4% percent. However, the major part of an electric bill, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) energy charge, remains the same, making the total impact on the bill 1.3 percent.

The council will vote on the tax rate, budget and utility rates at the Sept. 3 and Sept. 17 meetings on first and second readings.

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