Council approves $1.8 million in tax notes

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By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM

After approval last week, City Council voted Monday to officially adopt the 2017 tax notes that will fund $1.8 million toward a variety of public improvement projects.

Tax anticipation notes are issued as a kind of advance on future property taxes to bridge funding gaps. When those taxes are collected, the revenue will go toward retiring the debt associated with the notes.

Out of four received bids, Broadway National Bank has been approved to purchase the notes at a fixed interest rate of 1.83 percent. Maturity for the last of the series will happen March 1, 2024.

“We were very pleasured with the results,” said Managing Director Jim Sabonis of First Southwest, the securities consulting group hired to help the city with the notes.

Council also voted again to adopt the property tax rate associated with the notes, set at $0.50 per $100 in property value.

The ordered list of priorities for the fiscal year include: remodeling the police station, painting the water towers, renovations to the Fowler (also called Stubblefield) building, creating the swim center and trail system in City Park, adding amenities in Wetzel Park, improving the County Road 200 and State Highway 29 Intersection, drainage projects, the acquisition of a property adjacent to the Fowler building, creating a dog park, waterline improvements for downtown, and the acquisition of more property for the police station.

Earlier this month, when Council approved the proposed tax notes, they also voted to put an additional $1 million, out of its cash ending balance from last year, toward the projects outlined above.

Between these and other funding sources such as grants, City Administrator Greg Boatright says the city should be able to leverage $5-6 million in total funding for the projects.

The costs of issuance are $56,000, and are factored into the $1.8 million.

UDC redirected to P&Z Commission
Deliberation on a set of recommended changes to the Unified Development Code has been postponed again, after a quorum of the relevant boards was not reached Monday for the second week in a row.

Mayor Connie Fuller announced that the UDC proposals will proceed in a different way. The UDC Advisory Committee will now attend a Planning & Zoning Commission’s Oct. 3 meeting at noon to discuss the changes. P&Z alone will then bring the item to Council.

P&Z meetings are typically held in the municipal court building, where Council also meets. Details about the meeting place will be available closer to the date on the city website.

Discussion of the specific provisions in the recommended changes did not occur as planned at a Council meeting earlier this month because P&Z did not have a quorum, although the UDC Advisory Committee did.

All members of P&Z are on the UDC Advisory Committee.

The proposed recommendations from the UDC Committee have been a source of controversy since the Council did not adopt them all last year. The recommendations this year are the exact same, and were resubmitted by the UDC Advisory Committee because they believe last year’s process gave an undue advantage to the city staff’s competing recommendations.

Consultants recommend 8% increase in water rates
An rate study conducted by an outside firm recommends raising city water rates by 8 percent.
No decisions were made by the Council Monday, as Boatright recommended continuing the discussion at the next Council meeting Oct. 10.

Water rates in the city were last increased in 2014. Under these rates a household using 6,000 gallons in a month would pay $55.84.

Executive Consultant Matthew Garrett from NewGen Strategies & Solutions, the group hired by the city to conduct an ongoing study on the utility rates, says the number one issue for the water system is growth. The next few years will see the water system put under increasing stress as demand increases, he said.

Boatright agreed. The city expects 120-150 new water connections every year, he said.

Garrett said that under the current rates, the city would sustain a deficit into next year on its water utility fund. Raising the rates through the city and surrounding service area by roughly 8 percent would not completely correct that expected deficit, but it would significantly lessen it.

Boatright said a rate increase, combined with revenue from new meters, “almost gets us to point we need to be, that comes very close to negative $16,000.”

Council will also vote Oct. 10 whether to extend an open services agreement with NewGen, so that they can continue their ongoing rate study.

In other business this week,
* The Council deferred discussion of a collection services contract for the Municipal Court. The service would allow an outside group to follow-up on unpaid accounts once they are 60 days after deadline. Court Administrator Tracy Ventura stressed that persons contacted by the service would be informed that they can still schedule an appearance in court to speak to a judge about their particular circumstances. Action on the item was delayed until Oct. 10.
* The wastewater capacity of the MUD 19 Lift Station will be doubled after Council approved a change order to add a third pump to it for $47,088.
* The meeting ended with a roughly hour-long executive session for the annual performance evaluation of Boatright. He was called into the closed session toward the end. No action was taken when the Council reconvened.

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