An unchanged tax rate, salary increases and renovations to one of the city’s fire houses are part of the city’s proposed budget.
Seguin City Manager Steve Parker laid the city’s financial plans for the fiscal year 2020-2021 in a presentation to city council on Tuesday.
The city is growing quickly, and with that growth comes many anticipated changes. However, one aspect of the 2020-2021 budget that remains unchanged is the city’s five-year running property tax rate of $.5412.
“The no new revenue tax rate this year is a little less than the current tax rate,” Parker said. “To raise the same amount of property taxes as last year, you would have to adopt a rate of $.5368, which is probably not sustainable in the long run, but it is not recommending a rate over what the rate was last year.”
The difference between an unchanged tax rate would equate to about $1 more a month on a $300,000 home or less than 50 cents a month on a home valued at $150,000, Parker said.
Although the stagnant property tax rate is unchanged for now, the city may discuss a change to the rate in the future, Parker said.
While about 1,000 new homes are expected in the city limits, it doesn’t necessarily match the tax revenue that is generated by commercial properties, the city manager said.
“We have to build that strong commercial/industrial, which we’ve got a great momentum on. You have to have the retail and the sales tax, if not, you’re going to have an impact on services if you don’t increase your tax rate,” he said.
About half of the $.5412 tax rate is used to pay the debt for items such as roads and buildings — like most cities — and about 7 cents of the rate is allocated for healthcare at Guadalupe Regional Medical Center, the city/county-owned hospital, Parker said.
“It’s not a bad thing, but it does impact the amount of money we have to fund the service levels that we have here,” he said. “We’re only 2 cents more than we were [in] 2003… At some point, we may have to have a serious discussion related to increasing that tax rate to get some of the things done that we need to have done.”
The average home value in the area has increased from $168,000 to $177,000, which Parker expects to continue to rise for the next couple of years.
According to the proposed budget, about 20 capital improvement projects are slated for the coming year paid for through the issuance of Certificates of Obligation and the city’s general fund equating to about $37 million.
The projects vary in size and price from a $30,000 city network switch upgrade to more than $13 million going toward the funding of the Geronimo Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion.
Among them are the renovation of Central Fire Station slated at $2.4 million.
“If you’ve ever been to the downtown fire station, there was one restroom and one shower,” Parker said. “That is not a good situation to be in when you’re in a fire, and you’ve got carcinogens on you from smoke and so forth. Those are things that cause cancer and is a major safety initiative in my eyes.”
The renovation would include the addition of about six bathrooms, kitchen adjustments, and several safety systems, Parker said.
“There’s a lot of different things,” Parker said. “The exhaust systems for the fire trucks that as they come in, they hook up to an exhaust system, so it’s not piping smoke when they start up into the facility. There’s other items with the kitchens and bedrooms, just a basic overhaul.”
Other projects include street rehabilitation projects and funding three master plans — transportation, downtown and comprehensive master plans — aimed at preparing Seguin for the city’s expected growth.
“The three big project items that are going to help us get to that next level is the comprehensive master plan and combining that with the downtown master plan,” Parker said. “That’s going to help us figure out ways that we need to grow, where we’re going to grow, how we’re going to grow and what those expectations are, and aligning that with the transportation master plan at the same time as these developments happen.”
The budget includes a 2% cost of living increase for all employees along with a 2.5% merit increase based on performance ratings in January.
“One of the key areas is retaining employees and keeping up with our employee cost of service, and our ability to reward employees and keep them here,” Parker said.
The proposed budget also shows several departments will receive possible pay incentives, job creation and job upgrades.
That includes the implementation of bilingual pay incentives for the city’s fire and police departments and the creation of an in house tree trimming crew, the proposed budget states.
The proposed budget also recommends that the Seguin Fire Department fire marshal position be reclassified to battalion chief.
“Our fire marshal is also the emergency management coordinator for the city, so there’s additional roles,” Parker said. “They also handle the majority of the training program for the entire fire department. So when you really look at the workload and the levels related to the fire department what (Seguin Fire Marshal) Greg Dreiss does, it makes more sense to reclassify him to a battalion chief level.”
Seguin Assistant City Manager Rick Cortes is also recommended to receive a title reclassification to deputy city manager.
“Most cities our size have at least two assistant city managers, some have three,” Parker said. “I appreciate him and his knowledge of how this community works and how the directors respect him. I am recommending that, with his amount of responsibilities by only having one ACM here and the extra projects that he takes on as that person, we recommend upgrading him from assistant city manager to deputy city manager, which is funded out of the utility.”
The city will hold public hearings and readings regarding the tax rate and budget leading up to the end of September.
Council will vote on the proposed tax rate and budget during a regular meeting at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11, in the Seguin City Council Chambers.