Natalia adopts budget, tax rate

The Natalia City Council unanimously adopted a tax rate of $.8980 for the upcoming 2019-2020 fiscal year during the Regular meeting last Monday, September 16, an increase from the current rate of $.8715.
The budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year was unanimously adopted during a Special meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

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Projected General Fund revenues are $621,715, while expenses are $616,364, for a surplus of $5,351.
Police ($345,602), Administration ($204,462), Municipal Court ($22,650), and Code Compliance ($5,650), are supported by the General Fund. In addition, a $38,000 transfer from the General Fund to the Interest & Sinking Debt Service Fund is budgeted.
The projected revenue for the Utility Fund is $831,815, which includes a transfer in of $47,265 from the I&S Debt Service Fund. Projected expenditures are $661,260 in the Water Department and $126,014 in the Sewer Department, leaving a surplus of $44.541.
The budget includes a three percent cost of living increase for employees, as well as a $.75 cent pay raise for office personnel, a $1.75 raise for police officers, and a $1.50 raise for field personnel.
Any surplus funds that remain at the end of the fiscal year will be transferred to the City’s reserves.
Tax rate
Councilman Darin Frazier said during the Sept. 16 meeting that Natalia’s tax rate, which is higher than those of surrounding towns, was a consequence of low property values.
“A house in Natalia that’s worth $50,000 or $60,000 on taxes, if you went to Lytle or Devine or Hondo, that house is worth almost probably $80,000 to $100,000 on the tax value,” Frazier said. “We’re down to almost no choice. It’s not comfortable, but we’ve got to pay the bills.”
Frazier pointed to employee turnover and open positions as reasons for pay increases and comprehensive health insurance coverage.
“We’ve got to be able to be consistent in wages that when somebody leaves, can we replace them,” Frazier said. “And that’s not what we’ve been able to do the last few years. We have not been able to replace employees.”
There are currently two vacancies in the police department, and Chief Gilbert Rodriguez’s last day is scheduled for October 7.
Councilman Sam Bluemel said Natalia’s size hindered the interest of outside businesses that would help with property and sales tax revenue.
“There’s a lot of companies that will not even discuss with us because we don’t have a population of 25,000,” Bluemel said, adding later that the City was short on available property.
“The only area we really have that’s public is out on the freeway, and that’s a limited area,” Bluemel said, “so there’s only certain types of businesses that will build out there.”
The new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30, 2020.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer

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