Wichita Falls city councilors spent Tuesday afternoon looking at the proposed 2021-2022 city budget.
The total budget is $ 195,986,059, which represents a 6.26% increase over the 2020-2021 budget.
City finance manager Jessica Williams said it looks like a big increase, “but I want to remind you that last year was not a normal year. We have reduced our budget by 4.97 percent. We had no idea of the economic impact of COVID-19. “
Wichita Falls slashed its budget by nearly $ 10 million as it prepared for the impact of COVID-19.
Williams said the last normal year to compare was 2019-20, which was $ 194 million. Compared to that, the proposed new budget is closer to a one percent increase.
City Manager Darron Leiker has proposed to lower the property tax rate slightly from $ 0.7633 per $ 100 of property assessment to $ 0.7609. Even with this reduction, most homeowners will pay more in taxes. This is because property values have increased, so a slightly lowered rate on higher values will always generate more income.
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Property values have increased by about 6.4 percent. While this increase has been dramatic for Wichita Falls, the city has lower values than most other comparable cities, requiring a higher tax rate than some other cities.
“When people tell you we have a high tax rate, it’s only part of the story because our property values are so low,” Leiker said. “Look at our tax levy. This is the money we can spend on new fire trucks and police cars and pay increases.
Leiker said Wichita Falls was at the bottom of the list compared to other cities with $ 41,646,903 to spend.
One chart showed Midland’s tax rate to be less than half that of Wichita Falls, but Midland had $ 59,862,012 to spend. Beaumont’s tax rate is 5 cents lower, but he has $ 55,194,137 to spend.
“That’s why we have a hard time keeping up with everything we are trying to do,” Leiker said.
The proposed budget includes a 4.5% salary increase for municipal workers, which includes a 2% cost of living and a 2.5% merit or step increase. Because so many employees are below the minimum in the new pay scale, about 60 percent of the workforce will get an increase of more than 4.5 percent.
The increases were spurred by a study in March that showed the city’s salary in Wichita Falls was lower than in comparable cities.
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The cost of the study and the increases to the city would be $ 4,409,617.
Residents of Wichita Falls would see no increase in their water and sewer rates, but wholesale water customers would see a slight increase.
Residents of the city can have their say on the budget at a public hearing on September 7, 14 and 21. City councilors will vote on September 21 and the new budget will come into effect on October 1.