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August 10th, 2010
City proposes no property tax increase, but fund balance continues falling


Left to right: San Marcos Finance Director Steve Parker, Interim City Manager Laurie Moyer, City Councilmember Gaylord Bose and Councilmember Ryan Thomason at last week’s budget workshop. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

As the San Marcos City Council convened for a first look at the proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget last week, the city staff proposed no increase in the property tax rate of 53.02 cents per $100 of taxable value.

However, the city’s fund balance is falling, and city staff advised the council that utility rate increases will have to be seriously considered in the near future.

Interim City Manager Laurie Moyer said the last electric rate increase was a two percent increase in 2006. Moyer said capital improvements projects such as the laying of underground electric infrastructure were responsible for significant electric utility fund expenditure increases.

“The bottom line is, there is going to need to be some increase, because there just hasn’t been anything done in quite a long time,” Moyer said.

The total proposed budget, including operating costs, debt service and enterprise operations, came to $145,397,187, with revenues projected to reach $142,319,924. To meet the costs of governing, the city is projecting an allocation of just more than $3 million from the fund balance, which would bring the fund balance down to $40,756,255 by Sept. 30, 2011.

As of Oct. 1, 2009, the start of the present fiscal year, the fund balance was $50,433,117, meaning the city is in the middle of subtracting $10 million from its fund balance. The fund balance has fallen nearly $7 million this year, when the city estimates revenues of $133,583,220 against expenditures of $140,182,818.

Property taxes represent the only decrease in revenues for the proposed FY 2011 budget, coming $165,492 lower than this year for a total of $5,449,655. The highest revenue increase for the proposed FY 2011 budget is a rise of $365,347 in sales taxes for a total of $18,632,663.

As the economy struggles, interest income for FY 2011 is projected to rise slightly to $110,000, compared to $81,354 for FY 2010, $360,235 for FY 2009, $409,357 for FY 2008, and $683,500 for FY 2007.

“Anticipated interest earnings are based on market projections of interest rates, which have seen a steep decline in the last  24 months,” according to the FY 2011 proposed budget document. “The current rate of return is approximately 0.74%. Some funds are invested over longer periods for a higher return and in the current fiscal year, the Investment Policy was modified to permit 5-year investments for Reserve Funds.”

Including one-time expenditures, estimated FY 2010 general fund operating expenditures are $39,178,891, compared to $41,144,858 proposed for FY 2011. Significant changes in proposed FY 2011 general fund operating expenditures include $1,292,156 more for personnel services, which would total $29,666,521, and $568,272 more for contracted services, which would come to $5,169,473.

Most city departments get more to spend in the proposed FY 2011 budget. The community services department’s budget is proposed to grow the most, with $533,843 more than this year for $6,747,362 in FY 2011 expenditures. Fire services is proposed to have the second largest increase in departmental expenditures, with $516,498 more than this year for $5,718,363 in FY 2011 expenditures.

One-time expenses in the proposed FY 2011 budget include $120,695 for library books and $500,000 for the replacement of vehicles and equipment.

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5 thoughts on “City proposes no property tax increase, but fund balance continues falling

  1. We need to start living within our means. Let us stop borrowing money from the general fund balance. Let us stop increasing long-term debt and obligations.

    The city budget needs to match economic reality. Times have changed. We experienced an economic reset, far more than just an economic cycle downturn. We need to tighten our fiscal belts, not simply continue “business as usual” in budgeted programs and expenditures.

    In these challenging economic times, we really cannot afford continuing the special increased compensation package for the police and fire civil service negotiated last year (especially considering the fact it does not yield one more person on the force nor does it provide any improvement to service levels).

    We have already more than doubled our long-term debt and obligations during the past five years. Saying we are not increasing the property tax rate sounds nice, but then in the next breath we are told of the likelihood for increased utility rates in the near future.

    Oh, I remember, this is the same Mayor and City Council who a few months ago voted unanimously to support the proposed new ACC permanent taxation of SMCISD taxpayers.

    Who is looking out for regular citizens struggling to make ends meet, citizens who can ill afford increased utility expenses or new forms of permanent increased taxation?

  2. Whoops, Steve. Been following the ACC story in Austin? The part about the CURENT budget increasing the tax rate, even without all the expense of all the promised “little duckling campuses” being promised in every regional village and hamlet, not just ours? I spoke with one of our brightest and most successful “land gurus” who has also sat on a City Council, and he begged me “not to even get him started” on what a transparent boondoggle the ACC Project was, is, and will be–from the first conversations held, to present, and for so long as The Almighty makes taxes exist. He took me on the journey, doing “the numbers” with/for me. Said from a business point of view, he wouldn’t touch that half-zombie with a ten-foot pole. Maybe would work somewhere, but works here only for the select few who are in on the ground floor–the private-sector land guys. After that, the citizens (every soul in the whole ACC District, in all the counties, not just the beneficiaries) and the poor students pick up the tab forever, like it or not. That’s the Law. If the vote passes. No getting out, and no cutting costs, EVER. Another hair ball that needs a bit more public combing, sez I.

  3. Somebody once told me, in the matter of City Finance, that there is a parallel with home finance, in that future bond ratings and bond income (loans) depend on the City’s ability and willingness to pay. The willingness is about strong bond elections and the kind/quality of Council and Staff. The ability hinges on the tax rate, past revenue data (earning capacity) and willingness to increase it for the purpose of repaying the bond “loan,” in addition to two factors–the City’s fund balance and existing debt per capita. And there are no phony “derivatives” to allow non-qualifiers to become magically buyers. It just is what it is.

    Are you suggesting that in the future we may really NEED to do something we cannot AFFORD to do, if we keep pissing off money on every applicant for an incentive or “special deal”? Prove it to me. And don’t just hand me the talking points about future lottery winnings provided by “applicants,” either. They make their livings blowing smoke into tight places. They HAVE to believe they represent the Tooth Fairy or something. We don’t.

    Might want to take it up with CiCo and/or the candidates. [When I say that, I think of “graduates” instead–as in “THE Graduate” (1969): “Hello, Darkness, my old friend….”] But I’m a self-confessed mental defective.

  4. Don’t forget there is already one Property Tax Increase on the ballet this fall – ACC wants to dig in to your pockets now until the end of time.

    Say NO to ACC.

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