By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS – The City Council reviewed the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget at its workshop Tuesday and requested that the city staff lower the property tax rate.

Moments after opening the budget documents and getting City Manager Steve Carpenter's long- and short-term goals for the upcoming fiscal year's budget, the City Council began questioning the property tax rate.

The rate purposed by the city staff on Tuesday would have kept the current rate of 67.96 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The City Council asked if it would be possible to lower that rate.

"I would like to think about cutting that rate a quarter of a cent," said Mayor Ed Mullen, opening the floor on the discussion.

Councilman John Reider asked to lower it by half a cent.

"How would a half-a-cent reduction affect our budget?" Councilman Mike Aycock said to Carpenter and Financial Director Alberta Barrett after Reider's request.

The half- or quarter-cent difference wouldn't be drastic changes, Barrett said.

The reason the city kept the proposed rate the same is because it wasn't sure if the national economic downturn would start to affect the area more in the future.

"It is always easier to lower it than to raise," Carpenter said. The city manager also said that lowering the property tax drastically could cause them to raise it in the future. "It will not affect much now, but it may in the future," he added.

After more discussion on the property tax rate, the council decided a quarter of a cent would be a good cut and Barrett agreed to work the new figures.

"I think a quarter of a cent is good gesture," Aycock said.

The reduction would make the proposed rate 67.71 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The City Council looked at the water and sewer fees for the 2009-10 fiscal year which are proposed to raise by 5 percent.

Even with the reduction, Heights' tax rate remains higher than Killeen's but lower than Copperas Cove and Belton, Barrett said.

Also during the budget discussion the City Council mentioned giving employees a 3 percent raise all at once instead of dividing the percentage into two different time periods.

Other issues discussed by the City Council at the workshop included:

The creation of a committee that would help make recommendations to the City Council when residents suggest names for city facilities.

An ordinance that would allow the city to fine contractors that do not follow the city's registration or permitting process.

Contact Mason W. Canales at or (254) 501-7554.

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