Concerns were expressed by several residents over the proposed tax rate and the proposed budget during the Sept. 3 Waxahachie City Council meeting. The tax rate and the budget are set to be voted on by the council at its Sept. 16 meeting and would go into effect Oct. 1.
The proposed budget reflects revenues and transfers into the general fund of about $43,637,800, with general fund expenses of about $43,485,010.
It is anticipated that the property tax rate will remain unchanged at $0.68 per $100 valuation. As a part of this year’s budget, the city is looking to add additional personnel, possibly adding new facilities, replace aging equipment and make infrastructure improvements.
Resident Kevin Brady told the council that it is getting harder to live in the community with the tax burden continuing to rise year after year.
“All you are incentivizing is a further flight from the community,” he said. “Because you can do it does not mean you should. Can we not find a way that we do more with less? Are you willing to cripple your citizens’ dreams?”
Resident Megan Roberts shared Brady’s concerns about the high cost of living in the area and the burden it has placed on people.
“I was not born and raised here,” she said. “I was born in Wise County and I love it here. We are at a turning point whether we can stay here. I have looked at the detailed proposed budget and I am concerned. I think that we need to look at the large picture.
“Five homes have gone up for sale in my neighborhood,” she said. “Something has to be done. Respect us. Consider listening to people. My husband is from Los Angeles and he is saying that it is too expensive (here). That concerns me.”
Other residents also expressed similar concerns about taxes and the high cost of living in the community and asked that their concerns be taken under advisement before a final vote is taken.
Mayor Pro Tem Mary Lou Shipley encouraged audience members to become active in the city by attending meetings and volunteering their time to serve on boards and commissions. She noted that their experience, knowledge and wisdom would be useful in helping the city to grow.
“It would be really nice of you, those who are unhappy with the tax rate, it would be wonderful to see you all participate in some of our city activities,” she said. “Because I can tell you there are not more than three people out there that I have ever seen at a meeting before.
“When you give us your feedback, it would be nice to give us some of your time and effort, too, and experience and wisdom because I am pretty sure that there is some there,” she said. “But I am pretty much tired of listening to people complain but don’t give anything back.”
Council member Melissa Olson expressed her thanks to those who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
Mayor David Hill said the city council does the best it can to try and meet both current and future needs. He said that considerable planning goes into each project so the city is ahead of the curve instead of behind it. He cited infrastructure as an example.
“If you could see what we see as far as our infrastructure and what needs to be replaced, it is millions and millions of dollars’ worth of stuff that needs to be replaced today,” he said. “We didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Gosh, we have more houses being built so why don’t we do something.’ We woke up one morning and someone said, ‘We have got several millions of dollars in the ground that is deteriorating faster than we can replace it.
“So, you have to sit down and analyze what you want to do,” he said. “Are you going to let it deteriorate and never catch it or do we catch it now and pay the price for it now while we can? I think that is what we are doing. I think that we are doing the honorable thing. We are giving it thought.”
The residents who spoke said they were concerned about the city spending on items such as Christmas decorations and landscaping in the medians.
Hill explained that 40 percent of the city’s sales tax funds comes from outside of the city limits – and that funds these items. He also noted these items attract people from neighboring communities to Waxahachie.
“Our beautification is one of the biggest compliments that we get here in the city of Waxahachie,” Hill said. “That is from our sales tax money. That is what goes into putting the planters on the medians and buying the Christmas lights.
“You can thank the people that come here to shop,” he said. “They come here to shop because we have a convention center that they like. We have a movie theater where 70 percent of the people come to from outside the city limits. Our attraction is who we are and what we look like.”
Hill encouraged people to contact him with concerns so he can sit down and talk with them and find a solution.
City Manager Michael Scott said he appreciated the community’s feedback on the tax rate and the budget but wanted to clear up some misinformation.
“I would like to clarify one thing is the 11.5-percent number (relating to a property tax increase) that was mentioned several times this evening,” he said. “We are limited by a rollback rate of 8-percent on those types of values. Five and a half percent comes from the new value that does not even impact existing vales in the community.
In other business, the city council named the Waxahachie Sun as the official newspaper for the city.
Olson said she didn’t understand why the issue was being taken up and the reason of “just because we can” was not a good enough reason to move forward. She also expressed her hesitancy at not knowing all of the Sun’s ownership.
Hill said that while the Daily Light has been in existence for more than 150 years in serving the community, he has concerns that included the recently announced reduction in publication days, its plans to distribute the paper through the mail, personnel reductions and its ownership not being local.
“We have another newspaper that qualifies,” Hill said. “They are local and they do local news. People have asked about who owns what and whose interests are at hand. I don’t know who Gatehouse (Media) is but it is more of a national conglomerate and (the Daily Light is) not local like it used to be.
“The other paper is local,” he said. “While it might not have the same coverage or hits on Facebook or the same digital footprint, it is a year old. I would almost bet, in a year, it would have the same coverage and delivery.”
Shipley echoed Hill’s concerns for the need to select a new official newspaper.
“With the Daily Light no longer being thrown and sent through the mail, it raises the question in my mind of how promptly people would get legal notices that are published in the newspaper,” Shipley said. “I think that is a problem.”
Scott said there have also been concerns about the Daily Light’s local coverage waning and its not covering local meetings or events as did in the past.
Shipley made the motion to make the Waxahachie Sun the official paper with a second by council member Chuck Beatty. The item passed in a 3-1 vote with Olson voting in opposition. Council member Kevin Strength was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Other actions taken by the council included:
• Continued a request from Akamai Designs for a zoning change for a property located at 106 Santa Fe Trail to the Sept. 16 meeting.
• Continued a request from Akamai Designs for a preliminary plat of five lots to the Sept. 16 meeting.
• Continued a request from Cribley Enterprises Inc. for a specific use permit for outside storage within a commercial and light industrial one zoning district at 100 W. Sterrett Road to the Oct. 7 meeting.
• Approved a request from John Ed Justice for a replat of one lot to create two lots in phase one of the Legacy Ranch development.
• Approved a request from James McDill, Davis and McDilll for a replat of two lots in the Chapman Place Business Place Addition at 500 N. U.S. Highway 77.
• Approved a request from JPH Lan Surveying for a preliminary plat of the Chapman Acres subdivision at 400 and 402 N. U.S. Highway 77.
• Approved a request for SunRun for a specific use permit for a rooftop solar panel system at 90 Lilly Lane.
• Approved a request from Sunpro Solar for a specific use permit for a rooftop solar panel at 112 Barger Drive.
• Approves a specific use permit for a drive-thru establishment for Community National Bank and Trust of Texas at 1905 U.S. Highway 77.
• Tabled a request from Broadus Services LLC for a specific use permit for a communications antennas and support structures tower at 106 Chambers Circle.
• Approved an ordinance for a rate review mechanism tariff for Atmos Energy.
• Awarded a professional services contract with Kimley-Horn for engineering and design services associated with an 18-inch water transmission line.
• Awarded a bid to J&K Excavation for the BroadHead Road asphalt overlay project.
• Approved Trunk-N-Treat in the Park to be held Oct. 31 at Lee Penn Park.
• Approved Antique Alley on the square to be held Sept. 21.