No new taxes in city budget
Proposed $23.9 million spending plan up more than $3 million
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Aug. 10, 2005 -- Sulphur Springs City Council members on Tuesday got their first look at a proposed $23.9 million budget for the upcoming year -- up more than $3 million from the current year -- and additional funds to continue the city’s Capital Improvements Program.

And all of that comes without increasing the tax rate of 44 cents per $100 property valuation.

According to Peter Karstens, the city’s finance director, the city will use almost $1.65 million in surplus money from fund balances and the enterprise fund to make ends meet.

“In this budget there is no increase in the property tax rate,” Karstens said. “However, the property tax value -- in appraised value, the base is up 5.4 percent in the city, so that led to a sizable increase in terms of the money available for the budget.”

The increased property values will mean an additional $67,420 for the city’s general fund. An increase in sales taxes during the first part of the year meant another $50,000 and franchise taxes increased by $28,000 during the past year.

Additional revenues of more than $70,000 were generated through fines assessed by the city’s municipal court.

The $3 million increase in planned expenditures is attributed to work scheduled for the airport over the next two years. That expense, however, will be offset by a grant from the Aviation Division of Texas Department of Transportation.

Another hurdle the city must clear in funding next year’s operations is to meet additional expenses from a pay increase given police and firefighters last year when the city opted to use some creative financing. City staff presented an option to levy franchise fees on utilities to cover the cost of the pay increase.

“Last year, we started the process of charging our utilities, which are water, sewer and sanitation, the equivalent of about 5 percent,” Karstens said. “The revenue, which was a little shy this last year ... will be a little bit above $400,000 this year and will be used to increase the budget so we can pay for public safety raises.”

Last year there were adequate amounts in the enterprise fund and in savings to cover the $400,000 without having to increase any rates.

The proposed budget has the city spending as much as $800,000 to put water and sewer lines in the ground and to work on the water tower, a $170,000 project.

In the coming budget year, the city may give consideration to issuing certificates of obligation to continue a project begun more than five years ago to replace much of the city’s sewer lines, a project that kept the city a step a head of state requirements.

“We instituted a $2.5 million bond issue five years ago to speed up that process of replacing sewer lines, to spend in the neighborhood of $400,000 to $500,000 a year,” Karstens explained. “That process ended this last year. We had a successful program but there are still a lot of lines to replace.”

Savings were used to pay for the program this year, but there will be no more money available for the project from that source in the coming year. If the city is to continue with the program, the city will consider an additional $2.5 million in bonded indebtedness.

“There is still a lot of work to do to keep the regulatory agencies happy,” Karstens said. “Also, to make sure the system works, we are going to recommend that we do another 20-year bond issue to continue the work after this year.”

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