The Killeen City Council approved its 2019 budget Tuesday in a 5-1 vote, with the dissenting council member citing continued funding for the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce as a deal breaker.
The city’s $181-million 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.
With Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kipatrick presiding over the record vote with Mayor Jose Segarra in Washington, D.C., every council member — including Debbie Nash-King, Gregory Johnson, Shirley Fleming, Juan Rivera and Hugh “Butch” Menking — apart from Steve Harris — voted to approve the budget.
Harris said he wouldn’t support a spending plan that allocated $338,700 to the city’s chamber after the council reached a 4-3 consensus Sept. 4 to direct city staff to work on developing a “transition plan” to eventually move public funding out of the chamber in favor of the Economic Development Corporation.
On Sept. 11, the council voted to approve the city’s two-year agreement with the chamber with full funding both years.
In a comment before his vote on the budget Tuesday, Councilman Gregory Johnson, who proposed the consensus motion Sept. 4, clarified his remarks on de-funding the chamber, saying he never intended for the city to de-fund the organization right away.
“My intention was not for the council to move to de-fund the chamber this year — it was for the city to draft a transition plan,” Johnson said. “As far as I know, that direction still stands.”
As part of its budget, the council moved to allocate $400,000 from contingency and capital improvement funds in its water-sewer account to help offset costs for homeowner lateral sewer line repairs that cross into the public right-of-way. Under current city policy, homeowners are responsible for the entirety of lateral lines that connect their homes to the city sewer main under public streets.
The reserve account would help offset repairs that can cost around $25,000 for lines and street cuts.
The council also agreed to not honor The Hop regional transit system’s $455,000 request for funding after the service said it would likely need to cut Killeen service to make ends meet in the coming fiscal year. The council voted to allocate the same $120,000 for the service it did in fiscal 2018.
At its meeting, the council also approved a 2019 property tax rate of 74.98 cents per $100 of taxable value assessed — the same as last year.
The council briefly flirted with a tax rate of 0.7575, which would have brought 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, that new rate would represent a $11.55 tax bill increase from fiscal 2018.
During a hearing on the tax rate Sept. 11, two residents, Jordan Clark and Mellisa Brown, asked the council to consider lowering the rate to the city’s “effective rate” — 74.49 cents per $100 — or the rate at which the city would collect the same amount of tax revenue as the current year.
MUD No. 2
During a separate workshop session Tuesday, the council held a closed session to receive legal advice on the city’s obligations to the Bell County Municipal Utility District No. 2 — a planned 3,750-home subdivision on Killeen’s southern outskirts.
In accordance with Texas Open Meeting Act regulations, the council held the session behind closed doors as council members discussed the city’s legal obligations in its 2013 agreement with developer Bruce Whitis.
Following the session, Kilpatrick said the council discussed the item, and no formal vote was taken.
In 2013, the council approved a consent agreement between the city and developer in a 4-3 vote to give the green light on the project. In that agreement, the city agreed to improve city infrastructure leading to the project with some reimbursement from the developer. The developer also agreed to expand some of the district’s road and sewer infrastructure and conform to city demands on home construction materials.
Then-Councilmen Jonathan Okray, Terry Clark and Steve Harris — who currently sits on the council — voted against the agreement.
As its own taxing entity, the district can levy property taxes on homes within its boundaries to pay for sewer and road infrastructure capital costs that are initially paid through floated debt.