The Killeen City Council had its final chance to alter the city’s proposed budget Tuesday; with no final changes made, it’s slated to move forward with the adoption of the $235.2 million budget Sept. 9.
Two of the most notable changes made to the 350-page document are the bump in the tax rate and increase in employee compensation.
The council set the preliminary tax rate — the maximum rate the council can adopt — Aug. 12, slightly bumping up the rate.
The tax rate in the current fiscal year is 74.28 cents per $100 property valuation. The preliminary rate set, which also is the effective tax rate, is 74.98 cents per $100 valuation.
The effective rate is the rate the city would need to adopt to generate the same amount of revenues as estimated in the current fiscal year — $24.6 million. The revenue from the tax rate makes up 30 percent of the city’s general fund. If the preliminary tax rate is adopted by the council Sept. 9, the owner of a property valued at $100,000 would pay about $7 more annually in municipal property tax.
The originally proposed budget, which went before the council July 8, carried over a 3 percent across-the-board raise for city employees. The 3 percent raise was put into effect in mid-June for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The pay increase accounts for $1.91 million of the general fund.
The originally proposed budget carried over the 3 percent increase for police and fire personnel, and added 2 percent, for an overall 5 percent raise — $1.13 million of the general fund.
Following several discussions during the budgeting process, the council voted to add another 3 percent increase on top of the 5 percent for an overall 8 percent pay increase.
The 3 percent increase on top of the 5 percent adds $761,000 to the $1.13 million coming out of the general fund for a total cost of $1.89 million.
Two councilmen suggested three times that the city should hold off on giving pay raises.
]However, each time the suggestions failed to gain any traction, with no other council members backing them.
“We might come under financial uncertainties. ... (I propose) that we remove the pay raises for this year pending the evaluation next year of certain financial obligations and so forth that we have to determine if we can actually do that next year,” Councilman Steve Harris said.
Councilman Jonathan Okray was the lone member backing Harris.
“We have a city manager in our city that really knows what he’s doing,” Councilman Juan Rivera said in reference to Harris’ and Okray’s questioning of the timing of implementing pay raises. “When he brings something out to the table, we should listen to the city manager.”
Harris referenced the March 2011 firing of former City Manager Connie Green in addressing Rivera’s comment. Rivera sat on the council that bought out Green’s contract for $750,000 — a catalyst that caused a recall of five council members, forcing the city to go without its governing body for several months.
“Although I do not doubt the overall competence of our city manager, I do know that people can make mistakes and engage in risks that can have potential negative effects,” Harris said. “If the city manager, as Councilman Rivera stated, was/is always right, why did he run for the city council? Why do we have a council? Wasn’t there a time when he was on the council and didn’t trust, his then-city manager to such an extent that he voted to fire him?”
Rivera voted against Green’s buyout in 2011. However, Rivera was unseated along with four other councilmen in the historic recall.