COPPERAS COVE — Two residents spoke in opposition to the city’s proposed 1.26-cent property tax increase Tuesday at the first of two public hearings on the tax rate of 79 cents per $100 valuation.
There were no comments during a public hearing on the city’s proposed 2015 fiscal year budget that preceded the tax-rate hearing.
A second round of hearings is set for Tuesday. The Copperas Cove City Council will take a final vote on the tax rate and budget Sept. 2.
If approved, the budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by $690,906 or 7.8 percent, and of that amount, $170,952 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year.
The proposed budget shows total revenues of $56 million, total expenditures of $43.9 million and an estimated ending balance of almost $7.5 million.
Al Castillo was first to the podium to protest the tax hike, although it would not apply to him.
“I am one of those old guys (65 or older) whose taxes are frozen, but I am here for Copperas Cove,” Castillo said. “I know the needs are there, but there should be a better way” than a tax increase.
“This is the competition,” Castillo said as he recited lower property tax rates from surrounding cities and counties for the past several years. “Why live in Cove when the tax rates are higher?”
City Manager Andrea Gardner replied to Castillo, and the verbal exchange became somewhat heated.
“The public wants services but they don’t want to pay for them,” Gardner said.
She cited a drop of about $500,000 in revenue due to the tax exemption the state gives to disabled veterans, saying the cut equaled 4 cents in tax rate.
She said the city has to remain competitive in pay for employees or will continue to lose workers to other cities. With an increase of 21 percent in health insurance, “our employees are taking it on the chin.”
The budget includes a cost-of-living raise of about 2 percent for city employees.
Marc Payne, who owns rental commercial property in Cove, said he pays $26,000 in property taxes a year “which is a fourth of what I get in rent.”
“As a business person, I am not ready to go up on taxes yet,” Payne said.