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Budget, Tax Rate, Utility Fees Receive Unanimous Approval From Sulphur Springs City Council

Ordinance Setting Master Fee Schedule Passes On 4-2 Vote

Sulphur Springs City Council made short work of Tuesday evening’s special meeting, unanimously approving ordinances setting the budget, tax rate and utility fees for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and one authorizing updated service credits. Ordinance No. 2783 establishing a master fee schedule passed on a 4-2 vote. Although public hearings were held for each, no members of the community attended the 7;30 p.m. meeting to voice opinions regarding the seven ordinances.

Master Fees, Utilities

When asked to consider approving a master fee schedule for costs, frees and rates associated with permitting, utility services and other services provided by the city, Mayor Johns Sellers said he still had reservations about the street maintenance fee being doubled from $5 on residential water bills to $10 for FY 2021-22.

He said he thinks there is a lot of misinformation among the community as to how that funding is spent and exactly how much it will actually fund. Some people, he said are still think the SMF has been in placed for 5 years or longer. That fee has only been charged for 2 1/2 years, and has helped extend the number of street the city is able to treat or provide small repairs on all across the city not part of downtown. This is funding above what had previously been allowed through the capital improvement budget. He said he believes it’d be good to have a fact sheet available to give to residents with accurate information, to help the city be as transparent with this as possible.

“I understand costs are going up. I fell like with everything going on in the world in the last year and a half, people are truly struggling, I feel like hte case needs to be proven better,” Sellers said.

Place 1 Councilman Jay Julian submitted as “food for thought” but not something that could potentially require immediate action an idea to perhaps charge the fee not city water bills but perhaps another place. He noted that practically every citizen within Hopkins County uses the city streets, driving into town to the store or for work or events, and commercial trucks and business vehicles also drive on city streets carrying loads or during the course of business. Perhaps, he said, a more equitable way to fund street repairs would be not exclusively on fees paid just by Sulphur Springs citizens who pay water bills.

Julian noted that based on his research Texas Department of Motor Vehicles in Hopkins County registered more than 42,000 vehicles in 2020. That would include those county residents who travel to Sulphur Springs to town or work or visit as well as plants, cooperatives and businesses. He said while he does not know the intricacies of doing so, perhaps it’d be worthwhile to take a different approach and see what it would involved to have say $1.50 a year fee added to vehicle registrations instead of on water bills. That, he said, would generate over $1 million. The funds generated from the street maintenance fee have been helpful, but aren’t enough to fix a road base. The city can’t afford to stop repairing streets.

City Manager Marc Maxwell said he has reservations about going that route, which would be a risk, but wasn’t prepared to say more about it until the matter can be better researched.

Based on information presented in recent months by Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski the city needs to move up its time table for repairs, to get on a schedule so that all roads receive some maintenance at least once every 15 years.

Currently, to do that will require the street maintenance fee increase. Julian proposed if that’s to continue, to regularly on a schedule evaluate the fee and consider increasing or lowering it based on need.

Sellers and Place 2 Councilman Harold Nash Sr. both voted against the master fee schedule as proposed. The motion passed, however, on a 4-2 vote.

Utility Fees

The City Council unanimously approved as proposed increases to city water, sewer and sanitation fees.

City water bills, according to Ordinance No. 2785, will not charge a minimum $8.02 monthly demand charge plus a $4.05 usage fee for each 1,000 gallons of water. For meters 4-inches or larger the fee will be $939.52 minimum for 0-230,000 gallons of water, then $3.78 per 1,000 gallon usage of water in excess of 230,000 gallons of water.

Ordinance No. 2786 increases the sewer use fee to $28.10 for 0-4,000 gallons, then $4.07 per thousand gallons in excess of 4,000 gallons of sewage. Customers who contribute higher concentrations of waste than normal domestic wastewater would pay based on a forma based on the chemical oxygen demand, suspended solids and volume of water used.

Sanitation rates are scheduled to go up 5 percent, less than the 6 percent increase charged by the contractors. The rate per dwelling unit, multfamily residential unit and mobilehome park is $13.07. The monthly charge for commercial collection will be $26.15 per commercial unit. Business rates would be charge per contain per yard and per day. Temporary dumpsters under Ordinance No. 2787 would be charged a $102.84 delivery fee and charged fees per cubic yards for roll-offs and compactors.

Budget, Tax Rate

The City Council unanimously approved a budget just over $35 million budget, with 14.5 percent of the revenue funded by ad valorem taxes. Expenditures are budgeted to match revenues, which will fund all debt requirements, operating city government, and capital improvements, according to Ordinance No. 2783 Appropriations for 2021-2022 as posted on the city’s website.

The City Council tax rate will be reduced from $0.44 per $100 property valuation to $0.42692 per $100 property valuation in FY 2021-22, with $0.36241 designated for city maintenance and operations and the remaining $0.06461 applied to pay the principal and interest on city debit.

While the tax rate is almost 1.5-cents lower, it’s still expected to bring in 12.96 percent more in tax revenues than in FY 2020-21. That’s $507,107 in additional tax dollars to be raised in fiscal year 2021-22; $52,715 is new property added to the tax roll. The rest will come from tax payers in the form of increased property values, assessed for tax roles by Hopkins County Appraisal District.

In other words, the taxable value on homesteads has increased over 9 percent, which means an “average homestead taxable value” of $105,229 in 2020 would now be appraised at $115,012. That means the tax bill on that property would increased by $28 in FY 2021-22 to $491.01, according to the Notice of public hearing on tax increase posted by the City of Sulphur Springs.

Updated service credits

The Council approved Ordinance authorize updated service credits. Essentially, this is the retirement plan for city employees, through Texas Municipal Retirement System. The city’s contribution rate is 7.84 percent without updated service credits and increases to a total rate of 8.17 percent with adopted updated service credits. The city funded portion that will decrease slightly from 95.3 percent to 94.8 percent for FY 2022. The updated service credits enhance each retirement account of current full time employees for inflationary factors above specific thresholds. The additional cost of USC are estimated at $30,209.97 for FY 2022, city officials reported at a previous meeting.

Sulphur Springs City Hall
Sulphur Springs Municipal Building

Author: Faith Huffman

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