Former Councilor Says Tax Hike Not Needed

As the Wichita Falls City Council prepares to vote on the 2010-11 budget, a proposed tax hike is drawing some criticism. A former city councilor said the increase isn't needed.

City staff recommended a 2 cents per $100 in assessed value increase. The main culprit is the need for road work. City staff said the increase could bring in around $880,000 for improvements.

The first of two public hearings on the new tax rate came last Tuesday at the City Council meeting. Former Councilor Charles Elmore raised concerns that the city isn't exploring all options before raising taxes. Elmore said a proposal, by an interested company, to take over waste removal could save the city $1.5 million a year. That, he said, could make the tax hike unnecessary.

Assistant City Manager Kevin Hugman said the city has already looked into such a proposal and it wasn't financially viable. And, Hugman said, the city is already looking to other sources to help with street repairs.

The 2010-11 4B Sales Tax Corporation budget was approved Wednesday. That budget includes $400,000 for street improvements. The budget also includes and unreserved fund balance of $1.7 million. But, 4B funds can only be used for street work if it relates to improving the quality of life in a city. And, that balance only stands if no new projects arise and if sales tax revenue meets projections.

Hugman said the solution isn't as simple as outsourcing waste removal or looking to other budgets to bridge the gap. Elmore disagrees. "I don't think there's any question that they could," save the money, he said.

The second public hearing on the proposed tax rate is this coming Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. at the Municipal Auditorium. City Council is scheduled to vote on the tax rate and the 2010-11 budget at their meeting on Sept. 21.