Wichita Falls taxes set to change following proposed 2023 budget

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 6:12 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Property taxes lowering, sales tax revenue increasing and a rise in your water bill were the big talking points in Tuesday’s budget meeting with the Wichita Falls City Council.

City officials described this year’s budget as one of the most challenging they have had because of the effects of multiple things, including COVID, worker shortages and inflation, but they still did everything they could to propose the best price changes in favor of the taxpayers and toward improving the city of Wichita Falls.

“As we went into this budget process, we were looking at how we could lower the tax rate and still accomplish some of the projects that we have listed on our one-time list,” Jessica Williams, chief financial officer and director of finance for the City of Wichita Falls, said.

After struggling through a pandemic and inflation, the City of Wichita Falls is working on its budget. One proposal on the table is a decrease in property taxes.

“We wanted to be able to give the citizens as much savings as we could and we have lowered that rate 6.66 cents going into this next year if this proposed budget is accepted,” Williams said.

One of the reasons for the tax cut is the big increase the city has seen in sales tax revenue, which generated $5 million more than what they anticipated. While they don’t expect the revenue to make that big of a jump this next year, they still believe it will increase.

“Our history shows us that we do increase even in our more standard years, pandemic aside, a percent or two every year,” Williams said. “So we feel like we are right in line with where we need to be. We also have the opportunity if we start to see things going south quickly throughout the next year, then I will come forward and we will adjust those numbers as we go through the next operating budget.”

This is important because of the overall revenue the city brings in, which is estimated at $223.8 million, almost 22% of that comes from property taxes and another 15% comes from sales tax. One thing that is being affected greatly by inflation is water chemicals and supplies, which is why the city is proposing a 9% increase to your water bill.

“We have had numerous conversations with numerous cities in the state of Texas and pretty much every city is looking at some kind of rate increase,” Azura Kerr, utilities system data administrator for the City of Wichita Falls, said.

Those increases range from 3-15%. The city believes 9% is enough to match the price increase of the chemicals that keep the water clean and abundant. While 9% seems like a lot, officials state it will be the first increase the city has seen in eight years if this passes and the average household will only pay around $5 more monthly on their water bill.

“For the past two years, I have been tasked to do a study of us with our similar size cities and there is about 24 cities that population-wise we are very similar,” Kerr said. “We always fall in the middle of that list when you are just looking at water and sewer.”

Kerr said bigger issues could be at hand if this were to not be passed

“If it was not to be passed, it could potentially impact the quality and quantity of water that we have available to our residents,” Kerr said.

No action was taken Tuesday on any of the budget items; it was simply a discussion and presentation to city council. They will have a public hearing during their city council meeting next Tuesday. They will then vote on the budget items Tuesday, Sept. 6.

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