By Anton Riecher
The only private citizen to attend the Sept. 8 Devine City Council workshop on the proposed 2022-2023 city budget voiced concern that a suggested cut in the tax rate might leave the city underfunded during financially risky times.
Fred Morales told the council that cutting taxes now might mean steeper increases in the future.
“I know everybody is super concerned about being conservative about how this (tax rate) number is set,” he said. “I just want to make sure everybody was putting a lot of thought into making sure there was going to be enough cash flow to accomplish the needs of the city.”
A complete video of the council session is available on the Devine News YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiO7tQQKBnc.
He also asked if the city had a financial advisor, looking at how to set the tax rate, to which the answer was unclear.
The Devine City Council voted August 30 to set a preliminary 2022-2023 tax rate of $.4913 per $100 valuation, the so-called “split the difference” option midway between the current tax rate of $.5298 and the calculated no-new revenue tax rate of $.4527.
However, the new tax rate, based on a valuation of $274.1 million, depends on the city staff finding at least $200,000 in cuts to its proposed “wish list” budget submitted to the council for consideration.
If approved, the preliminary rate would be the lowest passed by the council since 1983, Mayor Cory Thompson said.
Thompson told Morales that the feedback the council got at the Aug. 30 meeting indicated that in view of the escalating property valuations issued by the county this year, a rate cut was in order.
“The feedback I’m getting is people are upset,” Thompson said. “Not just with us but the valuations from the county. They are just upset with all of it.”
Morales said that reading of public sentiment was “absolutely correct.”
“I can attest to that,” he said. But once the tax rate is cut increasing it to meet unforeseen future needs might become that much harder for the council,” Morales said.
“The reason I’m asking is I’m just concerned about how that fits in with the city’s needs and how you feel things are going to be moving forward,” he said.
A final decision on the tax rate remains pending.
“Everybody is having to make due with less,” Thompson said. Council voted to approve a public hearing to further discuss the budget scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept 20 at the city council chambers at city hall.
By Anton Riecher