• December 10, 2019

City reviews next year’s budget - Odessa American: News

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City reviews next year’s budget

No plans to change tax rate

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Posted: Friday, July 26, 2019 5:22 pm

The Odessa City Council met Friday morning to go over the budget for the next fiscal year, ultimately choosing to leave the tax rate as it is, despite seeking to take on $93 million in debt.

Odessa’s current property tax rate is at $0.476601 per $100 valuation. Should that remain the same when City Council finalizes the budget, that doesn’t mean everyone will be paying the same amount in property taxes. Because property values across the city have gone up, residents would still be paying more than last year, so it’s effectively still a tax increase.

Assistant City Manager Cindy Muncy had proposed an increase in the property tax rate to $0.483886, an increase of about seven-hundredths of a cent. But city council members ultimately decided they wanted to leave the rate as is.

“I think the fact that we can issue a $93 million certificate of obligation and not raise the property tax overall rate is pretty impressive,” At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean said. “The fact is that we could do this very same rate to support this debt because property values have gone up, which has nothing to do with us.”

District 1 Council Member Malcolm Hamilton was the first council member to voice his support for keeping the tax rate as it is.

“[A tax increase] might be minute to some, but to others who are already struggling with a cost of living increase, it really strains them,” Hamilton said. “I would like to keep it the same. I just feel like it’s penalizing the individuals who have done stuff right and have done what we would want them to do as a city, which is come to Odessa and settle.”

As the tax rate is staying the same, Muncy estimated it would generate about $300,000 of additional revenue for the city, about $800,000 short of what they would have generated had they gone through with a tax increase.

City council members also aren’t making any changes to the sales tax rate at this time. The city has seen a large amount of sales tax revenue generated over the past year. Muncy said the city was expecting to receive about $52 million in sales tax revenue this year, while they had budgeted to receive $41 million.

Dean said the city should possibly look at using more sales tax revenue during the next fiscal year, when the city has previously been conservative about spending it.

“When you’re in good times, I don’t think you run a good time business as if you’re in bad times,” Dean said.

While Dean said she wasn’t talking about spending so much they go into debt, she said the city should stay aware that they have money they can throw in when they want to speed up a project.

“Let’s do it now that we’ve got the money, and not wait until the leaner years,” District 3 Council Member Detra White said, agreeing with Dean.

Hamilton also agreed about the use of sales tax money, and said he would want to see it going toward getting more people under rooftops in Odessa.

The city is also looking at giving raises to its employees. During the next fiscal year, City Manager Michael Marrero said they are planning to give a 3 percent raise to all of their employees, about 860 in total, and would also be providing a $1,200 one-time payment to their employees this fiscal year.

In addition, Odessa police officers, privates and corporals, are expected to receive an additional 5 percent raise in the next fiscal year, as well.

Muncy had also suggested to the council possibly charging employees $15 a month for their health insurance, or raising their rates if they cover family members, District 2 Council Member Dewey Bryant said it wasn’t worth it and the City Council ultimately decided against the idea.

One other increase to residents is in solid waste rates. While sewer and water rates will stay the same, the solid waste rate is expected to increase 2.5 percent, about $0.50 a month. Muncy said this was the first rate increase for solid waste in three years.

Other items budgeted include $121,500 for school zone improvements; more than $1 million for park improvements, including an irrigation system at Freedom Park; a new $450,000 station alerting system for Odessa Fire Rescue; possibly buying back-up generators for all of the fire stations for $300,000; and replacing the Odessa Police Department’s public safety radios at a cost of about $2.4 million.

Muncy said the City Council would have until Aug. 12 to file their budget. That is also the week City Council will vote to approve the debt issuance, at their Aug. 13 meeting. Voters could only stop the debt issuance by filing a petition with signatures from at least 5 percent of registered voters in the city of Odessa, and would need to be submitted by Aug. 13.

The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Odessa, TX

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