Proposed Budget And Decreased Tax Rate And Increased Utility Fees Approved By Sulphur Springs City Council

Master Fee Schedule Passes On 5-2 Vote

Sulphur Springs City Council unanimously approved the proposed budget and tax rate on first reading during the regular September meeting Tuesday night. A master fee schedule, with increases in street maintenance fees and to the Grays Building rental deposit fee, was also approved, but on a 5-2 vote.

Master Fee Schedule

The Council opted, at the recommendation of Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lesa Smith, to removed the city fees and rates from the budget and voted on an ordinance for each utility fee and a master fee schedule for city rates. Pulling these out for approval as separate ordinances will make it easier in the instance any changes are needed, Smith noted. City staff recommended looking at street maintenance fees and the costs of renting the HW Grays building in Pacific Park to determine whether they should be increased.

Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski noted the city at the current rate the city is able to repair and reconstruct streets is not able to keep up with the decline. He outlined the projects of street deterioration as well as costs associated with repairs/reconstruction in terms of the current street improvement program as well as potential if the street maintenance fee were increased to $7.50 or $10 per residential customer on monthly city utility bills. Council members recommended setting the rate at $10 to overlay more roads annually, expanding their street life and significantly reducing the amount of time between treatment of each road.

Street maintenance fees to be charges to city utility customers within the city limits of Sulphur Springs in the 2021-22 budget year, if approved on final reading Sept. 21, by the City Council

Also discussed was potentially increasing the $50 fee or $100 deposit currently charged to rent the new Grays building in Pacific Park. Ultimately, the City Council voted on a motion to leave the rental fee unchanged but to double the deposit, which will be returned to renters provided they meet the terms for cleanup and care of the facility. If the building is not properly cleaned and returned in good condition, the city would keep the cleaning deposit and a crew would come in to do the job the next day.

Mayor John Sellers and Rev. Harold Nash voted against against the fee schedule ordinance as proposed in a motion by the City Council, due primarily to the doubling of the deposit fees for those renting the new HW Grays building in Pacific Park as the street maintenance fee. Sellers also said he is not in favor or raising the street maintenance fee to $10 per residential customer. If approved on second reading on Sept. 21, the street maintenance fee for single family dwellings will be $10. The SMF for commercial increases from $12.50 to $22.50 and the industrial fee will increase from $30 to $50.

Some other additional fees also will change to better keep up with inflation and make them more comparable to rates of similar sized cities across the state and around the area.

For instance, at the airport, community space in the hangar building 44 will increase from $70 to $130 in 2021-22, private space in Hangar building 44 would increase from $90 to $155 and aircraft storage would rise form $200 to $300.

The fee per day to rent a tournament field would increase from $100 to $120, park soccer use fee per player per season would go up from $12 to $13 for city residents, and from $12 to $14 for players living outside the city limits, the market craft and produce vendor space for market season, however, would decrease from $140 to $100, and market vendor space for one day only drop from $15 to $10.

The food establishment inspection fee would rise from $200 to $300, while food establishment re-inspections would drop from $200 to $150. Public pool inspections would increase $100 to $300 while public pool re-inspections would drop $50 to $150, as proposed.

Budgets, Tax Rate

After a public hearing in which no community members spoke, the City Council approved on first reading:

  • Ordinance No. 2783 adopting the 2021-2022 city budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2021, and ending Sept. 30, 2022, with the revenue and expenditures adjusted equally for the projected revenue from the increased street maintenance fee (if the master fee schedule ordinance is approved on second and final reading); and
  • Ordinance No. 2784 setting the 2021-2022 city tax rate which is less than the rate of 44 cents (or slightly lower) that the city has charged since 2002, but is expected to still generate about 12-13 percent more (about $507,100 more) in tax revenue due partly to $52,715 in new construction added to the tax roll this year as well as increased appraisal values throughout the city, as is the case across the county and state.

The city ad valorem tax rate of $0.42692 per $100 property valuation would provide $0.36241 for city maintenance and operations and $0.0645 for principal and interest on city debt. Taxes levied with Ordinance 2784 will be due and payable on Oct. 1, 2021 and will be considered delinquent on Feb. 1, 2022.

EDC Executive Director Roger Feagley presents a FY 2021-2022 budget proposal to Sulphur Springs City Council

The city anticipates raising $5.1 million with that tax rate, which comprises only 14.5 percent of the projected revenues for FY 2021-22. That’s figured based on the current year’s tax collection rate of 98.35 percent.

The $35.3 million budget includes all anticipated expenses for debt requirements, city operations, capital improvements, and maintaining all departments at the same level as in fiscal year 2020-2021.

Approximately 11 percent of the budget will come from grants, 15 percent sales taxes, 42 percent utility bills and 16 others sources. According to the posted budget, the city anticipates receiving $1.1 million from franchise and right-of-way fees, $4.85 million from sales tax, almost $3.5 million from grants, the $200,000 EDC contribution approved by tax payers in November of 2019 to fund improvements in Pacific Park and a new Senior Citizens Center, $190,000 from hotel occupancy tax, almost $6.3 million transfers into fund and $3.38 million from other revenue sources, according to the proposed 2022 budget posted on the city website.

A 3 percent cost of living raise was also included in the expenditures.

Approved on first reading, Ordinance No. 2788 dealing with updated service credits, that is the city’s retirement system 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.

Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jason Ricketson proses using a small portion of the asset forfeiture fund to stockpile equipment and needed supplies for the department during the Sept. 7, 2021, City Council meeting.

The City Council also approved as proposed the Economic Development Corporation budget, which Executive Director Roger Feagley told the council did not change a lot. It does however, include an additional personnel, an intern from Texas A&M University-Commerce who will be assisting with research projects. Promotions costs are only anticipated at about half the allowable 10 percent. An additional $34,000 is included for industrial expansion. Additional in insurance fees are included to cover buildings and open properties.

The asset forfeiture budget was approved by the council. Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jason Ricketson asked to be allowed to use about $20,000 of the $284,063.34 in the asset forfeiture fund throughout the year to stockpile equipment for the department such as duty belts, cameras and radars. This would allow the department to have funding when needed or if items they will need go on sale, creating a stockpile. These funds are acquired from cash and liquidation of forfeited property from narcotic related enforcement.

The City Council too approved Resolution No. 1254 adopting the annual investment policy. The city is required to adopt the policy annually. There have been no changes in 2 years,.

Utility Rates

The City Council Tuesday night also approved on first reading Ordinance No. 2785 which set a monthly demand water charge of $8.02 for customers with meters less than 4 inches in size, plus a $4.05 usage fee per $1,000 gallons of water use. The monthly water rate for active connections in the system for those with meters 4 inches in size or larger is $939.52 for 0-230,000 gallons, then $3.78 per 1,000 gallons of water for all usage of more than 230,000 gallons. That’s a 2 percent increase in base rates.

Ordinance No. 2786, increasing the city’s base sewer service rate by 2 percent, also received approval on first reading. This sets the city’s sewer rate at $28.10 for 0-4,000 gallons usage for residential consumption, and $4.07 per thousand gallons after 4,000. Customers who contribute higher concentrations of waste than normal domestic wastewater will be charged, in addition to the basic rate, extra strength and penalty surcharges, figured based on formulas outlined in the ordinance. charge or penalty charge.

Ordinance No. 2787 increasing sanitation fees by 5 percent, too received City Council approval Sept. 7. The two contractors for collection, removal and disposal of garbage and trash in their contacts are allowed to increase their fees by a CPI of 6 percent. A fee of $13.07 per month per residential dwelling unit, per unit per multifamily residences, and per unit in mobile home parks in each park within the city limits. The monthly commercial rate will be $26.15 per commercial unit. Business rates would be figured based on yard and frequency of collection weekly. For temporary dumpsters, there will be a $102.84 delivery charge, plus roll-off fees and compactor fees per cubic yard.

A special city council meeting is scheduled Sept. 21, 2021, for a public hearing related to the budget as well as second reading and final consideration of ordinances approved for the first time on Sept. 7. The meeting is planned to take place at 7:30 p.m.

Sulphur Springs City County meeting on Sept. 7, 2021

Author: KSST Contributor

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