The Denison City Council may be asking taxpayers to pay a little less next year. The city's draft budget, which was presented Monday, includes a 1 cent per $100 valuation decrease in the city's property tax rate. Denison also city staff highlighted a focus on public safety, city roads and new personnel when they presented the draft 2017-2018 fiscal year budget.
“While the things I present are preliminary, these are our recommendations and can be adjusted as we move forward,” City Manager Jud Rex said during Monday's meeting.
Many of the new items highlighted during Monday's meeting were originally discussed by the city council during its annual budget retreat in May. During this session, department heads updated the council regarding proposed new projects and expenses that were being requested.
What's in the budget
Under the proposed budget, two new positions will be opened in the Denison Police Department. These new openings will increase the narcotics division by one position and create a second position in the department's community services division. The division currently is comprised of Lt. Mike Eppler, who serves as the department's public information officer. Rex estimated this would cost the city about $114,000 in salary and benefits for the two positions.
In addition to the two new officers that would be added to the department, city staff also proposed a yearly $42,000 expense in the budget for body cameras for the city's patrol officers. This would include 35 cameras, docking stations, hardware and software upgrades and video storage.
With these upgrades, Rex said Denison is taking its department in the same direction larger cities have, using McKinney as an example.
During May's meeting, staff discussed options on storage space, however, Rex said the cost for unlimited storage was ultimately nearly the same as other options.
“We looked at this in the past, but we think it is finally to the point that we can afford it,” Rex said.
City staff is also proposing the creation of a new administrative support position in Denison Fire Rescue. The new position would serve as an administrative assistant — something the department previously lacked, Rex said. Currently, city staff is budgeting $50,000 for this position.
In addition to civil service, city staff also proposed new or expanded positions in several other city departments. The proposed budget will transition the city's part-time permit technician in code enforcement to a full-time position. Code enforcement will also see a new position opened related to the enforcement role of the department. Rex said these changes will help streamline the process for residents.
The budget also calls for the creation of a new geographic information systems position, with salary and benefits of $55,000. Rex described this position as an information technology role that will help map out and compile data on the city's infrastructure systems. As an example, Rex said the new position will help map out the city's water and sewer system as the city undergoes upgrades to its infrastructure.
In the city's Main Street Department, the budget proposes the merger of several part-time and internship positions into one single full-time position. As the city prepares for a redesign and overhaul of its downtown district, Rex said the department could use full-time professional assistance.
The budget also proposes that three positions related to the city's ongoing street maintenance program be retained full-time moving forward. In previous years, these improvements and positions have been financed using road improvement funds set aside in a specialty fund.
As these funds have since run out, Rex proposed that the city contribute $670,000 toward roadway improvements and maintenance each year moving forward. Of these funds, $465,000 will come from the city's general fund, with an additional $205,000 contributed from the utility fund. Of the $670,000 about 10 percent will be set aside specifically for sidewalk and pedestrian-use improvements.
“We really don't have a bucket of money to improve sidewalks, so we'd like to set aside a portion of these funds for that,” Rex said.
Rex said the city will primarily focus on mill and asphalt overlay work for these improvement funds. This comes as the city is expected to invest more than $2 million in overlay work this summer.
Proposed tax rate
Under the proposed budget, the city's property tax rate will be rolled back by 1 cent for the second year in a row, resulting in a rate of 63.3377 cents per $100 of assessed value. Despite the decrease, the city is still poised to see a 6 percent increase in its property tax revenues next year thanks in part to increasing property values across the city. For Denison, this 6 percent increase in revenues means an additional $459,835 in the city's coffers next year.
Finance Director Reneé Waggoner said the city was originally expected to need a public hearing regarding the increase in revenue during Monday's meeting. However, after working with county officials over the weekend, Waggoner said under the proposed tax rate the city will not be required to hold a special hearing to move forward with the budgeting process.
When asked about the tax rate decrease, Denison Mayor Jared Johnson said the city has been working to reduce its taxes for years. While up until recently it has only been minor drops, Johnson said he hopes these decreases will add up to a meaningful change for Denison residents.
“For the city, 1 cent means about $135,000 in revenue, but to our citizens, it is a meaningful effort to try and give tax relief as our economy has gotten better for the city,” he said.