Killeen homeowners in need of certain sewer repairs could get some relief in 2019 after the City Council moved Tuesday to allocate $400,000 in the annual budget to cover later sewer line breaks in the public right-of-way.
Five residents pleaded with the council for financial aid during a public hearing on the annual spending plan over a city policy that requires homeowners to pay for sewer repairs past property lines up to the main under city roads.
Lee Huggins, who has frequently addressed the council on its policy, proposed allocating 1 percent of the city’s water-sewer budget to act as a contingency fund for the repairs, which can total up to $25,000.
“Let’s solve this problem for the citizens of Killeen,” Huggins said.
The council unanimously moved to use the water-sewer fund’s $100,000 contingency fund and $300,000 in capital improvement funds to act as an account for affected homeowners. The fund would only be used if the council votes to formally change its policy to accept responsibility for the repairs at a later date.
Budget and tax rate
The city’s proposed budget is balanced for the second straight year with no significant cuts to city personnel or public services. However, the spending plan includes little increased funding for city-owned building repairs or a growing deficit in deferred street maintenance needs.
The council also held its first of two public hearings on a proposed property tax rate of 75.75 cents per $100 of taxable value assessed — a nearly 0.8-cent increase from the current rate.
The council voted 6-1 on Aug. 21 to set the preliminary rate for fiscal 2019, which acts as a high-water mark for the council before two public hearings and a ratification vote in late September.
The 0.7575 rate would bring in roughly $420,000 in additional revenue above current budget projections, the city said.
For the owner of a $150,000 home, with no exemptions applied, it would represent a $11.55 tax bill increase from fiscal 2018.
According to state law, governing bodies cannot formally adopt tax rates that exceed their preliminary rates but can adopt a lower rate after public hearings.
After a brief discussion Tuesday, the council made the uncertain move to not adjust its proposed budget to accommodate the revenue from the higher tax rate, possibly nullifying any tax rate higher than 74.98 cents. To accommodate the higher rate, the council would have to adjust its operational fund revenue and specify an expenditure for that revenue to be spent on.
The council will hold a second tax rate hearing at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Utility Collections Building, 210 W. Avenue C.
At a regular workshop following the meeting, the council discussed re-entering its biannual agreements with the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
In a surprise move, the council reached a 4-3 consensus to add a sunset provision on its agreement with the chamber with the intent of fully de-funding the organization in the coming years.
According to a council memorandum, the council entered agreements with both organizations in November 1990 with an allocation of no less than 2 percent of the city’s property tax revenues each year.
In a council presentation July 28, EDC president Charlie Watts requested $386,354 in funding from the city in fiscal 2019, the same amount as the current year.
Both the KEDC and chamber are primarily funded through payments from the city’s general fund and water-sewer fund totaling $725,054 each year. Unlike cities such as Copperas Cove, which allocates a portion of its sales tax revenue for its chamber and EDC, the Killeen City Council sets its funding for the two entities every two years.
According to the council’s discussion Tuesday, it intends to honor both organizations’ funding requests in the 2019 budget.
The budget is scheduled to be approved Sept. 18.