A loss in red-light camera revenue, franchise fees, and a need to increase employee salaries, hire more public safety officers, and increase funding for capital improvements have University Park officials proposing a tax rate increase nearly 8 percent above the effective tax rate.
At its Aug. 6 meeting, the council adopted a maximum proposed tax rate of 25.862 cents per $100 of taxable value.
That is 7.99 percent more than the effective tax rate.
City staff recommended the magic number to avoid an election, which is triggered at 8 percent.
The first of two public hearing regarding the proposed tax increase will take place Tuesday evening at City Hall.
The city’s work session begins at 4 p.m., and the meeting will take place at 5 p.m.
If approved, the maximum proposed tax rate is the most the council will be able to raise taxes for the upcoming fiscal year. However, they can set a lower rate.
The public hearings are required since the amount exceeds the 23.9488 effective tax rate.
The city’s current tax rate is 24.5379 per $100 of taxable income.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1631 into law, prohibiting cities from operating photographic traffic camera systems that catch drivers speeding or running red lights and issuing them fans.
According to city documents, red-light camera revenue brought in about $265,000 to University Park in 2016, $246,000 in 2017, and $225.000 in 2018.
Steve Mace, the city’s communication director, said UP had projected $200,000 in revenue in 2019, but on June 3 when the city opted to end enforcement, revenue was about $100,000.
“So, at a minimum, that’s a drop of about $300,000 (in revenue) over two budget cycles,” Mace said in an email.
Another bill signed by Abbott this past June slashed right-of-way fees telecom providers pay cities to supply cable and phone services.
For years, companies paid cities two separate fees to run phone and cable TV lines in right-of-ways — even when delivered over the same line. The bill changes that practice and allows providers only to pay the higher of the two fees.
In University Park that involves two providers: AT&T and Charter.
Both companies are now allowed to operate on a “one wire – one fee” process.
Companies do not have to pay a franchise fee for the service that generates the least revenue; For AT&T, the city projects franchise fees will drop from $540,000 in 2019 to $440,000 in the fiscal year 2020.
For Charter, it’s a drop from $105,000 to a projected $55,000.
University Park city staff has also recommended the property tax increase to fund an across-the-board 3 percent pay raise for civilian city employees and 5 percent for uniformed employees.
According to a compensation study, University Park is below market for police and fire positions an average of three to five percent.
Civilian city salaries are more than 5 percent below market for 42 percent of the survey sample and 5 percent or more above market for 30 percent of the sample, according to the study.
The estimated cost of salary adjustments to implement the proposed recommendations from the study is $820,000.
The city also is looking to develop a program with the Highland Park Independent School District and the town of Highland Park that would provide a uniformed presence at all of the elementary school campuses during arrival and dismissal periods.
“Outside those time periods, officers would supplement existing patrol activities,” Mace said.
As well, the city is looking to continue efforts to increase the contribution from the general fund to its capital projects fund to keep pace with inflation and community needs.
Since the fiscal year 2018, that increase has been a minimum of 5 percent per year.
For the 2020 fiscal year, the general fund contribution will increase to at least $3.9 million, from FY19’s $3.7 million.
“As has been discussed in various council meetings, the City has serious stormwater management items it needs to address in the next few years,” Mace said.
The council will again hold a public hearing about the proposed property tax rate at its Sep. 3 meeting.