HARKER HEIGHTS — The City Council voted Tuesday to keep the city’s current property tax rate of 67.7 cents per $100 valuation for fiscal year 2014.

The city reduced its tax rate from 69.96 cents to 67.7 cents in 2009, and has maintained that rate ever since.

Following Tuesday’s preliminary vote, the council will finalize the tax rate after holding two public hearings later this month.

The council also heard a presentation on the proposed budget, which showed no hikes in city fees, such as sanitation and emergency services.

“I came in 1994, and I know we haven’t raised the tax rate,” City Manager Steve Carpenter said. “A combination of growth and just planning ahead on the part of the council ... has allowed the rates to be maintained.”

Mayor Pro Tem Rob Robinson seconded a motion by Councilman Pat Christ to renew the tax rate.

The proposed fiscal year 2014 budget projects the city will spend about $17.5 million of an available $19.3 million in operating revenue, after absorbing an estimated $9.9 million from property taxes, city documents stated.

Total revenue is projected to rise 5 percent, and total spending should rise 4 percent over the current budget.

Next fiscal year, the city is projected to earn about $826,000, or 8.8 percent, more in property taxes than this year, about $324,000 of which will come from newly added acreage.

The city projects to earn about $5.5 million from sales taxes during fiscal year 2014 — 7 percent more than this year — in large part because of new stores such as Sam’s Club, documents stated.

Harker Heights’ fiscal year 2014 general fund is projected to be made up by about 42 percent in sales tax revenues, 32 percent in other tax earnings, about 8 percent in court fines, 7 percent in franchise fees, 4 percent from reimbursements and internal account transfers and 6 percent from other sources.

Rising property values and taxes have allowed Harker Heights to invest in capital improvement projects such as a master water plan, a 10-year sewer improvement plan, a multi-year street improvement program, and a master parks plan, Carpenter said.

Preparing for a build-out population of 50,000, the city added parks, a police station, a library and a pet adoption center.

“The whole goal is sustainability,” he said.

Including benefits, all fiscal year 2014 city salaries will reflect a 3 percent adjustment and will total $12.9 million, about $600,000 more than last year, documents stated.

The city only hired one new employee this year, a recreation aide in the Parks and Recreation Department, Carpenter said.

The budget proposes to give $36,000 to the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and $12,500 to the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.

The city pledged to allocate $25,200 to HOP transit, $50,000 for scholarships to Texas A&M University-Central Texas and $50,000 to the Boys & Girls Club serving local schools.

The city will host public hearings on its budget and tax rate Aug. 20 and 27, and will adopt the official budget and tax rate Sept. 10.

Contact Brian Bradley at bbradley@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7567

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