3 speak out against proposed city tax hike

In two public hearings within the past week, only three people spoke against a proposed 5 percent increase in the tax rate for property owners within the city of Liberty Hill.

The Liberty Hill City Council has given preliminary approval to an ad valorem rate of $0.563735 per $100 property value. The proposed rate is the highest rate that could be set before voters could initiate rollback proceedings, thus two hearings were required.

The Council has not adopted a budget for fiscal 2013 and has held two workshops to discuss a spending plan proposed by Mayor Jamie Williamson.

“One of the problems I have is that every year when you set a budget you don’t let the people see what the proposed budget is,” said Jack Harkrider, a former city council member. “I recommend you start letting us know what the proposed budget is so we can give input.”

Jon Branigan, a local business owner, said Liberty Hill does not need to be viewed as the city that continuously raises taxes.

“There are plenty of places where the budget can be cut. You may have to tell people (employees), sorry no raises or cut back on services.”

Branigan said when residential property values drop within the city limits, a tax increase becomes the burden of commercial property owners.

“Businesses won’t want to be here if tax rate increases,” he said.

Although he did not speak on the issue during the designated public hearing on the tax rate Monday, Jim Dillon told the Council during the public comments portion of that meeting that tax hikes in the past two years placed a burden on taxpayers and that burden is compounded by the current increase proposed.

“This year, you may think you’re doing no harm with a 5 percent increase, but it is compounded by what you’ve done in previous years,” Dillon said.

The Council must set a tax rate and adopt a budget before the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1.