By Robert Nathan
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen City Council on Tuesday approved its $136.86 million budget while maintaining the existing tax rate of 69.4 cents per $100 property valuation.
The city's proposed 2006-07 fiscal year budget includes a major phase in the capital improvement program designed to improve the city's quality of public service and infrastructure. Within the tax rate, the budget can support $27.5 million for the third phase of the $64 million capital improvement program voters approved in 2002.
Overall, total revenues are budgeted at $136.86 million and expenditures at $184.54 million, which will leave a fund balance of $47.15 million. Capital improvement bonds were figured into the projected expenses for the 2006-07 fiscal year.
City Manager Connie Green said the planning process for the proposed budget was presented to the City Council in July after multiple town hall meetings to seek input from residents.
"We're maintaining the tax rate at 69.5 and the increases in the valuations in the city are helping us move forward with all of those capital improvement programs without raising the tax rate itself," Finance Director Rana Lacer said before the budget was approved. "The increases in appraisals are supporting the debt service for those programs."
The maximum tax rate the city could have set was 71.7 cents per $100 property valuation. The effective tax rate of 63.28 cents per $100 property valuation would have been enough to raise the same amount of revenue during the previous fiscal year, but it would not have allowed the city to move into the third phase of the capital improvement program.
The third phase of the capital improvement program will likely include the construction of two fire stations, community service facilities and a new police headquarters.
The city has seven fire stations; the two new stations would likely be located in southeast and southwest Killeen.
The city also plans to build neighborhood centers and animal control facilities during the third phase of the capital improvement program.
The approved budget includes 8 percent increases in water, wastewater and drainage fees.
Lacer said these rate increases are the result of passed-down operating costs from the Bell County Water Control Improvement District, increased costs in energy and the purchase of additional water rights.
She said that if the city had not passed down the incurred costs to Killeen residents, the city fund balance would "drop to a level that we do not feel is financially conservative."
"Many of the expenditures were absorbed in this fiscal year without passing our rate increase to the customers," Lacer said. "We decided we would wait until the budget process to pass the additional costs to the customers."
The council approved the rate increase by a 6-1 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Ernest Wilkerson was the dissenting vote.
"We're looking at future projection," Wilkerson said. "There could be an increase in userships and there could be an increase in a lot of different things. I just think we are doing this too early."
The budget calls for 51 new employees and a 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all existing city employees. Proposed are 14 police officers, 15 police patrol officers and 10 electronic ticket writers. Also proposed is an emergency management/homeland secur-ity coordinator and nine fire rescue officers.
In other business, the council temporarily postponed two ordinances that would require fees for off-premise real estate signs in the city.
Councilman Fred Latham said the practice would be unfair to real estate professionals because they are providing a service to the community.
"I think this is unfair to single out the real estate community who are people who offer to sell Killeen housing and invite people to live in Killeen," Latham said. "I don't want us to be in a marketplace where we are driving customers away."
During the 60-day period, the council will explore other policies that could address the issue more fairly.
Councilman Larry Cole suggested the council should have another public hearing on the issue.
In other business, the council approved:
n the final plat approval of 76.179 acres for property located near Rosewood Drive, Stagecoach Road and Sulfur Spring Drive.
n a city/owner agreement for the widening of Rosewood Drive and increase is storm drainage infrastructure.
n a resolution approving an application by Flash Transportation Services for a Ground Transportation Service Operating Authority Permit.
n an extension to the memorandum of understanding regarding the final settlement of the extraterritorial lawsuit between Killeen, Harker Heights and Nolanville.
n final plat approval of 5.712 acres on property located near Madison Drive and Pilgram Drive.
n a request to revise the SH 195/SH 201 Land Use Plan to change a residentially zoned area to a commercially zoned area south of Watercrest Road to Dessert Willow Drive between the commercial frontage on SH 201 and the planned marginal access street east of SH 201.
Contact Robert Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org