The Waxahachie City Council approved the 2019-2020 budget totaling $44,985,780 Monday night along with voting to keep the property tax rate the same at $0.68 per $100 valuation.
The new budget, which starts Oct. 1, includes several projects intended to improve the quality of life for residents and some significant capital improvements.
City council member Kevin Strength said he’s excited about what the budget will do for the community in the upcoming year.
“I am really proud of the budget and everyone who worked on it,” Strength said. “I am really proud of the city and the way things are coming. We see dirt flying everywhere. There are a lot of people working on next-level stuff.”
Council member Chuck Beatty shared Strength’s thoughts.
“As the longest-serving council person, I would also like to say that I am proud of this budget,” he said. “I was here when we had the downturn (in 2008) and it was not fun at all. We had to lay off staff. We didn’t have any money for anything. So now we have an excellent staff and are able to deliver all of the services to our citizen. We are improving a lot of the functions in the city. I think that the budget is fair.”
City Manager Michael Scott expressed his thanks to all who were involved in the budget process.
Several residents were on hand to voice their opinions.
“There seems to be a lot that we don’t see, a lot you are not hearing or saying,” Kevin Bready said. “You had the chance the last time in a public hearing to clear that up and you didn’t. I know that now it is time to approve the budget and we don’t have the numbers in for [the 2018-2019] year. You are approving the budget without knowing how we did and how we spent and are shouldering the citizens of this town with oversights, decisiveness and deafness.”
Jim Kauffman said he supported the direction the city is moving in and called for no changes to the proposed budget.
“I know that if we reduce the city taxes, we will have to reduce city services and, quite frankly, I don’t want to cut any city services,” Kauffman said. “When I look at our rate for city taxes compared to cities around us, we are cheaper and have a lower rate. We are lower than Cedar Hill, Ennis, Italy, Mansfield, Midlothian and Red Oak. So, we are not out of whack here.
“I feel good about what we are doing and we still have a lot of things that we still need to spend money on – and all of you know that,” he said. “We have got a lot of streets that need to be repaired and there is a lot that needs be done. If we cut the taxes, we are in trouble.”
Miguel Valenzuela said he addressed the council several weeks ago about the proposed tax rate and had asked for some clarification about it. He also noted the response he received from the council was unprofessional.
“Instead of getting an explanation, we get an article in our local newspaper (that was addressed) to the people that came up here that day,” he said. “These are your words, not ours, ‘When you give us feedback it would be nice to give us some of your time and effort, experience and wisdom. I’m pretty sure some of that is there. I am pretty sure that I am tired of listening to people complain and don’t give anything back.’
“Comments like this coming from a council, coming from people who are supposed to be representing the residents who are coming here voicing concerns about a budget increase is very discouraging,” he said. “I think that it sends the wrong message of leadership in this city. To make comments like that about concerns is ridiculous.”
The council approved both the budget and tax rate in a 4-1 vote with council member Melissa Olson voting in opposition. Olson said she wasn’t against the budget or the hard work put in by people but felt there was a different direction in which it could have been taken.
Mayor David Hill said he’s more than willing to work to resolve any issue that might come up during a meeting.
“We are about as human as everyone else,” he said. “Sometimes we say things that we might regret saying. So, if I ever say anything from up here that might offend somebody as soon as the meeting is over you come up here and we will resolve that.
“My intent is to never insult anybody,” he said. “My intent is to work hard for the city to make sure we do our responsibilities and everyone lives in harmony.”