City to Hold Second Hearing on Taxes, Budget

Nobody showed up to testify at the first of two public hearings Thursday before the West University Place City Council on a 5.8 percent a tax increase for homeowners, to finance a proposed $34.3 million city budget for 2015.
But West U residents will get another chance to comment on the tax increase, as well as the proposed budget, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, before at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting.
Taxes will increase by about 5.8 percent for the “average” West U homeowner, according to City Manager Michael Ross.
Ross, in the proposed $34.3 million budget for fiscal year 2015, has actually recommended lowering the city’s tax rate. But, property values in West U have increased by about 10.3 percent this year.
The Harris County Appraisal District recently reevaluated property values throughout the Houston area. The total appraised value of property in West U now stands at $4.92 billion, with the “average” residence valued at $898,000.
Ross has proposed lowering the tax rate by 1.5 percent.
The city manager has recommended reducing the tax rate from .37410 per $100 of property value to .36179 per $100 of property value, but taxes will increase by about $18 per month for the “average” West U homeowner, Ross said.
The 2015 fiscal year budget of $34.3 million includes $12.4 million for personnel; $9.2 million for operating expenses; $227,630 for capital outlays; $3.2 million for transfers between funds, and $9.3 million in debt service payments to retire city bonds.
The proposed budget for will include a minimum pay raise for city employees of 3 percent, with some employees slated for pay raises up to 15 percent. The pay increases were recommended by consultants the city hired last year, in order to make West U’s pay more competitive with other cities in the Houston area.
Personnel costs are always the highest expense for city governments, and West U is no different. “City government is basically a service industry, and it takes people to provide the service,” Ross said. “We believe the residents of West U want us to have the best employees, and to attract highly qualified employees to continue providing the service they have grown to expect.”
The new city budget also includes a proposed 6.2 percent increase in fees for the collection of solid waste, which was proposed by the city last year. The city of West U has no plans to raise water and sewer rates, except for a possible “pass through” increase in water purchased from the city of Houston.