WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Wichita Falls city council met this morning. Here’s an overview of the major changes you need to know about:
Property taxes in Wichita Falls are going up three cents after city councilors approved the increase, and their new budget, at this morning’s meeting.
“This is huge," said Wichita Falls fire chief Ken Prillaman, “not just for public safety but for the city in total.”
In a six-to-one vote, Wichita Falls city council’s approval of a property tax increase means an additional $1.68 million in revenue.
The added funds will go towards raising city employee contributions to the Texas Municipal Retirement System to meet state standards as well as a five-percent salary increase for police officers and fire fighters.
“It’s an opportunity for the city to invest in the employees and help us across all organizations, all departments, with both recruitment and retention,” said Prillaman.
Wichita Falls mayor Stephen Santellana added, '"those are our first responders. You don’t want someone of a lesser quality. So if we don’t do this, what do we look like? So our numbers are going to get down, and that’s tangible.”
The decision didn’t come easily for the city council, as Mayor Santellana points out, with many residents voicing their opinions during the two public hearings that were held on the matter.
“So the burden gets moved to the taxpayers and the property owners,” said one resident.
“You struggle with the backlash of maybe we’re going to be a little more unattractive of a city and we’re going to have trouble recruiting which is going to hinder our growth,” said Santellana.
But as a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Santellana said he didn’t want to risk the future of the city just because people didn’t want to pay more in taxes.
He said, “this is one of those times where I had to take that hat off and say let’s not be a fiscal conservative let’s be kind of a common sense conservative and do what’s right for the city of Wichita Falls.”
“We need to look at the overall picture and what can we do to fix things or make things better for everyone,” added Sgt. John Spragins of the Wichita Falls Police Department.
Both Sgt. Spragins and Chief Prillaman said today’s vote gives them the green-light to move forward on recruitment initiatives, something they say both of their departments desperately need.
“Hopefully we can maintain this somewhat throughout the next few years and keep us there,” said Spragins.
Included in this year’s budget are increases in city improvements as Wichita Falls continues to become more bike friendly.
On top of newly painted bike lane designation lines along roads, a new position is opening at the city level to focus primarily on bike-related issues and advancements.
The mayor said this is just another stepping stone towards making Wichita falls an official bike-friendly-community.
'There are going to be some future designations that might help with some grant funding. But right now I think we’re very mindful of that. Where two years ago, not saying we were doing very little because we wanted to, we couldn’t. Slowly but surely moving towards that. All of that lends itself to economic growth," said Santellana.
He added now that the budget is approved all of those special designations should start going into effect and being put into work next month.