Council Approves Budget, 35.9 Cent Tax rate

October 28, 2008

The West University Place City Council approved Monday a $33.1 million budget for fiscal year 2009, which includes a tax rate of 35.9 cents per $100 valuation.

While the 35.9 cent rate is lower than last year’s 36.6 cent rate, it is 5.4 percent more than the current effective tax rate of 34.01 cents. The effective tax rate is the rate the city would have to asses to generate the same amount of revenue as the previous year. City representatives say the increase from the effective tax rate is mainly due to personnel costs, including healthcare.

The budget includes a minimum 3 percent pay raise for city workers, which is part of a new compensation program recommended by The Waters Consulting Group, which found last year that West U.’s municipal salaries are six percent below the market average.

“The City Council has been saying that West U. needs to be an employer of choice,” said West U. Mayor Bob Kelly.

“Our employees deserve to be paid competitive salaries in this market,” said West U. City Manager Michael Ross. “When you consider that most city employees commute from other cities or suburbs – and with the volatility of gas prices – we need to compensate our skilled staff to ensure the level of professionalism and service that West U. residents have come to expect.”

Under the new pay plan, the 2009 budget includes a minimum pay raise of three percent for all city employees. Staffing levels will remain at the current 119 full-time employees. Following the consultants’ recommendations, the city’s new compensation program will raise salaries even more for some City workers, depending on their positions and length of service.

“About three-fourths of this budget is about people,” said West U. Finance Director Rhonda Daugherty. “Cities are all about people.”

The General Fund portion of the budget is divided into 74 percent for personnel and 26 percent for operations.

Major expenditures in the proposed 2009 budget include $1.58 million for new park acquisition if a suitable location can be located; $3.0 million for transportation and drainage improvements, $1.2 million for completion of the streetlight improvement project, and $250,000 for improvements at West U’s RecyclExpress. Improvements at the recycling center will be completely financed by revenues from West U’s successful recycling program.

The city also will spend $500,000 for “emergency backup power” – generators for the city facilities that will be financed from reserve funds.

About half of the proposed 2009 city budget – $14 million – will come from property tax revenues.

The proposed budget would lower the tax rate to 35.9 cents from 36.6 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which is 5.4 percent more than the current effective tax rate of 34.01 cents. Due to an 11.4 percent increase in assessed property values and new home construction in West U., the “average” home in the city is now valued at $742,877.

Sales and franchise tax revenues are projected to raise $1.9 million.

Fees for services, such as the city’s Direct Link alarm monitoring service, ambulance service, water and sewer charges and charges for recreation and leisure activities, are projected to bring in $7.9 million. That includes a 1 percent water rate increase (resulting from a city of Houston rate increase) in March, 2009. Licenses and permits will raise $504,000; “other revenues” which include grants from other governments, fines, and investment earnings will bring in $2.3, and $2.8 million in debt will be issued in 2009.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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