In its first workshop in the city’s newly remodeled chambers, the Killeen City Council met Tuesday for a workshop, where the council heard an update from lobbyist Stan Schlueter about upcoming discussions on the floor of the Texas Legislature.
One issue Schlueter discussed was the state-mandated property tax exemption for disabled veterans.
According to Schlueter, the tax exemption started in 1979 with a flat-rate percentage. In 2009, it went to 100 percent exemption for those who qualified for 100 percent disability. In 2011, the spouse was included.
The concern for local legislators, as well as the concern voiced by council members in previous meetings, is not the exemption itself, which all agree is well deserved, but a lack of reimbursement from the Legislature, which requires cities to honor the benefit.
In Killeen alone, the city will miss out on around $3.5 million in property tax revenue in fiscal 2019 — a growing deficit that has forced the city to make difficult expenditure cuts in areas like public safety, officials said.
In addition, cities must honor other state-mandated exemptions for less than 100 percent disabled veterans. The total loss for Killeen from the exemptions is approximately $5.3 million.
“The state does not pay for the $5.3 million that we lose,” Schlueter said. “We get about 20 percent of that, as does Copperas Cove.”
Schlueter said the governor has expressed that something needs to be done about the financial impact on the city of Killeen.
“Now we just have to see if he really means it,” Schlueter said.
Additionally, Schlueter said, several bills making their way through Legislature could put an end to unfunded mandates, such as the tax exemption, for which Killeen.
Also during Tuesday’s workshop, the council heard more about the Killeen Independent School District’s request to rezone land on Chaparral Road.
KISD has submitted a request to rezone approximately 67.506 acres out of the J.D. Allcorn Survey, Abstract No. 25, from “A” (Agricultural District) to “R-1” (Single-Family Residential District) for the future site of the district’s sixth high school.
The area is located northeast of the intersection of Chaparral Road and Cedar Ridge Circle in Killeen.
The staff notified 142 surrounding property owners within a 400-foot notification boundary regarding this request and received no objections.
The new school will feed onto Chaparral Road, a two-lane thoroughfare primarily owned by Bell County that has been the focus of concern by city of Killeen officials.
On Dec. 3, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7 to 0 in favor of approving the rezoning request.
Councilman Steve Harris posed the question of whether the district would still plan to move forward with the construction of the sixth high school in the instance that funding is not readily available for the infrastructure required to ready Chaparral for the addition.
“I don’t think anyone is comfortable with the state of Chaparral right now,” said KISD Director of Facilities Services Adam Rich. “At the same time, we are also not comfortable with 100 portable buildings at the high schools, which is what would be on the horizon if we didn’t get this high school.”
The council also heard a proposal for a resolution of support for applications to the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs for housing tax credit for affordable housing developments.
The TDHCA administers a competitive housing tax credit program for various community housing projects. TDHCA divides the state into regions; Killeen is in Region 8 with Bryan, College Station, Temple, Waco, and other smaller cities.
Historically, only one project has been awarded tax credits in Region 8. There are five proposed tax credit development applications in Killeen currently.
The council heard about each, and approved a motion of direction for the city manager and other officials to return to next week’s meeting with more information in order for the council to make its decision.
Also on the agenda for a later meeting will be the proposal heard Tuesday to award a contract to Gary W. Purser Construction Ltd. for the construction of the South Water Supply Project.
The company has done work with the city before, and submitted the lowest bid for the project. The council requested that City Manager Ron Olson find out more information about available warranties for the project and return his findings to the council as soon as possible.
The council will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday for its regular meeting at City Hall, 101 N. College St.