Council doesn’t go for budget do-over but will address tax exemptions, zoning for churches, sports groups

By Sarah Tucker

West University City Council held two public hearings on the proposed 2015 tax rate and 2016 city budget.

No residents spoke at either hearing, but council had plenty to say.

During the public hearing on the tax rate, Councilmember Brennan Reilly proposed city staff prepare an alternate budget at the effective tax rate in order to justify the revenue increase for residents.

The proposed tax rate for 2015 is $0.33179. While lower than the 2014 tax rate, the 2015 rate will bring in 3.97 percent more revenue than the previous year because of the increase in property values across West U. This revenue increase requires council to hold two public hearings.

Reilly’s motion failed for lack of a second, with Councilmembers Burt Ballanfant saying it was a little late in the process to ask for an alternative budget and Mardi Turner saying West U was triple-A rated not because it’s a “nice little town” but because it’s properly managed.

At the public hearing for the 2016 budget, Finance Director Rhonda Daugherty presented the proposed budget and addressed increases and adjustments from the previous year. Daugherty and City Manager Chris Peifer also discussed the timeline staff follows and the different components that go into the budget and why the budget can’t be presented to council earlier in the year.

Of interest for upcoming council meetings will be Reilly’s proposal to discuss the memoranda of understanding with Tri-Sports, West U Aquatics and the West University Baptist Church. Reilly wants to review the property tax exemption for commercial property and review institutional zoning.

Mayor Susan Sample took issue with Reilly’s agenda item saying that it was his attempt to curb churches in West University Place.

The item was placed on the Oct. 26 agenda after Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kelly said there was no reason to prohibit discussion.

Reilly said he found it inappropriate for institutional buildings to be in a residential zone. City Attorney Alan Petrov said churches can be built in residential areas and requested to meet with Reilly prior to the Oct. 26 council meeting to discuss the particular rules of zoning and houses of worship.

Council also changed the November and December council meetings to Nov. 9 and 16 and Dec. 7 and 14.

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