The Killeen City Council on Tuesday set the preliminary tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year, a move that bumped the rate up slightly.
The city’s current tax rate is 74.28 cents per $100 property valuation. The preliminary tax rate, which also is the effective tax rate, is set at 74.98 cents per $100 valuation.
Hilary Shine, city spokeswoman, said if the preliminary tax rate is adopted by the council at the end of the budgeting process, the owner of a property valued at $100,000 would pay about $7 more annually in municipal property tax.
The preliminary tax rate sets the maximum rate the council can adopt for the 2015 fiscal year. It still allows the council the option to adopt a rate at or below the preliminary rate.
Martie Simpson, Killeen’s finance director, said the effective rate is the rate the city would need to charge to generate the same amount of revenue as estimated in the current fiscal year — $24.60 million, which makes up more than 30 percent of the general fund.
According to the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Bell County Appraisal District showed a 2.73 percent decrease in the certified taxable valuation.
The preliminary rate was adopted 5-2. Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Blackstone, Councilmen Wayne Gilmore, Terry Clark, Jose Segarra and Juan Rivera voted in favor of raising the preliminary rate to the effective rate. Councilmen Jonathan Okray and Steve Harris voted in opposition.
Discussion regarding setting the preliminary tax rate struck a nerve with one councilman.
“Things have happened legislatively down in Austin that the city needs to respond to,” Clark said. “I realize that legislation was passed to help our veterans who have served proudly for our nation and they’re getting a tax break now. ... Those of us who didn’t serve are going to eventually have to fill the gap. That’s going to be the reality of this. It’s a pill that’s been delivered to us via our state Legislature.”
In 2009, the Legislature passed House Bill 3613, which added a section to the tax code requiring an exemption of the total appraised value of veterans’ residences if they have a 100 percent disability rating, or if the Department of Veterans Affairs classifies them as unemployable. It also extends the exemption to surviving spouses of a member of the military who was killed in action.
Shine said the impact on Killeen’s municipal property tax revenue is about $1.3 million annually.
Okray, a veteran, said he was “perturbed” by Clark’s statement.
“I’m just a little skittish about every time we talk about raising taxes, we want to go and blame the veterans,” he said. “I take offense to that; every time, the veteran is the scapegoat.”
The $235.2 million budget is scheduled for adoption Sept. 9.