Even with the lowest tax rate in the past five years, Paris property owners could see a slight increase in property taxes this year to support a 3.5% increase in the city’s 2020-21 budget as proposed earlier this week by City Manager Grayson Path.
The proposed tax rate of 48.519 cents per $100 valuation is down almost 4 cents from last year’s rate of 51.608 cents. Because of increased property values, however, the tax levy will add roughly $800,000 to city coffers.
The new tax rate is within 2 cents of the maximum rate a city with a population of less than 30,000 can charge without taking it to the voters under Senate Bill 2, the new Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019.
Path’s proposed balanced general fund budget totals $24,443,660 compared to the $23,615,442 budgeted in 2019-20. The Water and Sewer budget of $15.269,187 also is balanced, as is the Sanitation and Landfill Fund with $1,165,350.
The proposed budget includes a 2% cost of living wage for city employees (city manager excluded), the addition of a city planner and a fourth code enforcement officer in addition to four police cars, an animal patrol unit, a bulldozer and several other equipment items.
Along with a 300-page budget document, Path presented councilors a 15-page memorandum, which outlined both his reasons in support of budget recommendations and the city manager’s responsibilities in the budget process as outlined in the city charter.
In support of the 2% cost of living increase, Path said the city has fallen behind in properly compensating its employees.
“We have fallen behind what is fair, looking at communities our size — not on the high end, but what is medium fair across towns our size,” Path said during Monday’s budget presentation.
“We lose knowledge; we lose history, skill set, and we never get past that basic service because we keep starting over all the time,” Path said of the city’s high turnover rate in several departments — including fire and police departments.
Path included $30,000 in the budget to hire a professional consultant “to study the city’s wage and benefit plan, and compare it to several comparable peer communities.”
The manager recommended “reasonable loans of lease purchases” as a way of replacing costly equipment rather than restricting purchases to one or two items a year for a fleet of more than 300 pieces of equipment.
A fourth code enforcement officer is needed to step up demolition efforts of dilapidated housing and to address the recently approved downtown vacant building ordinance, Path said.
The manager said he would also like to hire a city planner to remove the responsibility of planning and zoning from the engineering department.
“This city is large enough, growing enough and complex enough to have an individual trained in planning and zoning, and the Community Development Department is stretched very thin,” Path said.
To balance the budget while providing a wage increase and expanding staff, Path said he and staff reviewed budget line items to determine a historical trend for what it actually costs to provide services.
“We looked at every line item for the last five years and brought it to a trend line,” Path said. “When you examine the trend line, you can see the true requirements in operating a budget. Using the process, we adjusted over 400 individual line items and realized savings to go toward the COLA increase.”
City Council will meet for a budget workshop at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers, 107 E. Price St. Public hearings on the proposed budget and tax rate will be scheduled in September before final approval. An approved budget goes into effect Oct. 1.