Mayor’s budget includes 5% tax hike

Although some numbers may change in the coming weeks, the Liberty Hill City Council took a first look at the Mayor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes a 5 percent tax increase.

Property owners inside the city are currently paying a tax rate of $0.536426 per $100 property value. In order to generate the same revenue as this year, the effective tax rate would be $0.552113 per $100 value.

Mayor Williamson said she is recommending the council adopt the rollback rate of $0.563735 per $100 value. The rollback rate is the highest rate that can be set before voters can start tax rollback procedures.

Mayor Williamson explained the higher rate is needed because the City’s debt payments are increasing.

“My recommendation is to go to the rollback rate based on the additional debt service this year,” she said.

She estimated that the tax increase would raise taxes on a $100,000 home to about $563. Last year, the Council voted to raise the tax rate by 9 percent.

Values for property inside the city limits were certified by Williamson County and released last week. Liberty Hill’s 2013 certified tax roll is $106,480,177.

The Mayor’s budget projects a $5,000 drop in revenues generated by property taxes, and income from sales tax is estimated at $350,000 — unchanged from the current year. When combined with additional revenue from permit fees, franchise fees, Municipal Court fines, and income from other sources, she projects the City’s General Operating Fund to have $1.016 million to work with in fiscal 2013.

The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

While future budget workshops could change the bottom line numbers on the Mayor’s proposed expenditures, the draft reviewed by the City Council Monday showed total proposed expenses from the general operating fund at $1.136 million — a $150,000 increase over the current year’s budget.

During the two-hour budget workshop, the Council went through each line item in the proposed budgets of each department, with the exception of the Police Department because  Chief Randy Williams was not present. The Council also reviewed the proposed budgets for the water and wastewater funds.

Councilmember Connie Fuller said the city’s newly-hired financial consultant was to begin work this week and the Council should delay further consideration of the proposed budget and tax rate until his recommendations can be considered.

“We don’t have that kind of time,” the Mayor said.

Mayor Williamson said the City had to meet publication deadlines in order to adopt a budget and set a tax rate by the state-mandated deadline in September.

“We need to wait on his report to see if all the numbers are right,” Mrs. Fuller said.

The Council voted 3-2 on July 8 to hire consultant David Kautz on a contract basis for the purpose of reviewing financial statements and financial position. Proponents said his expertise would be called on  during the budget process.

Although she is unable to vote except to break a tie, the Mayor was opposed to hiring a consultant. Councilmembers Vicki Brewer and Elizabeth Branigan voted no.

Mrs. Fuller questioned why the Mayor’s budget did not include the salary of City Manager Greg Boatright, whose contract expires Sept. 31.

“I asked for input at the last (budget workshop) meeting and had nothing from anyone,” the Mayor said.