WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - City council members held a public hearing this morning as the debate continues over raising the city’s property tax rate.
“There’s no one sitting on city council right now that wants to go one way or another,” said Mayor Stephen Santellana.
“All of us are faced with this Rubik's cube of trying to solve a very complex set of issues of which there isn’t easy answers,” added fire chief Ken Prillaman.
The suggested increase would generate an estimated $1.68 million in revenue for the city. That money would go towards a five-percent raise for police and firefighters, which for the fire department equals an extra $2,000/year, possibly resulting in higher retention and recruitment rates for both departments.
“I think it’s a great step in the right direction,” said Prillaman.
But as Mayor Santellana points out, the money for those pay raises has to come out of the general fund, which is where resident’s property taxes go.
“This is it,” he said. “This is one of the only methods you can do it. I mean if the money’s not there, there’s no magic pot of money. So if we don’t increase taxes to generate that money, I don’t know where else it would come from.”
Residents argued that their getting hurt by the tax increases happening across the board. Wichita County has discussed raising their tax rate this next fiscal year and WFISD is still sorting out their tax rate.
The only other option for finding these funds would be to start cutting other departments.
“I don’t see where we want to go shutting down libraries and parks just to fund raises,” said Santellana.
Fire Chief Prillamen explained these raises aren’t the only things that would help keep more firefighters in Wichita Falls but it would be a good start.
“It’s a lot easier to overlook maybe a locker or a bunk room that hasn’t been updated in ten, 15 or twenty years," he said. “But every two weeks you’re looking at your pay and trying to provide for your family.”
It’s been three years since property taxes were raised for Wichita Falls residents. Santellana says that is still a possibility, but added that all it would be doing is delaying something the city needs. He said it would like kicking a can down the road.