After a final pair of public hearings, Kilgore City Council members are scheduled for votes Tuesday on the budget and tax rate for Fiscal Year 2020: most likely, the tax rate will stay the same to support an operating budget that’s heftier by half-a-million dollars.

“Our budget methodology is we start with the same service levels as prior year,” Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said. “We look for opportunities to streamline, and we look for opportunities for needs, to create either adjustments or enhancements.”

Heading into the final phase of the budget process for the coming year, council members are eyeing a proposed tax rate of 53.9 cents per $100 valuation, the same one they adopted last September for their Oct. 1 to Sept. 31 Fiscal Year 2019. It’s a shade more than the effective tax rate (to get the same amount of revenue as FY19) at 53.473, but it’s a change from the increases of recent years.

“Our budget philosophy is one where we have ebbs and flows in our expenditures,” Selleck noted. “We try to cash-flow as much as we can so there are saving periods and spending periods. We’re probably as  balanced as we’ve been in a while.

In FY 2019, “We’ve been trying to knock out a lot of major infrastructure projects.” Looking ahead, “This year is more of a lull as we work out some of the designs for our major projects.”

Notably, the past year saw slim growth in total assessed values, about 1.3 percent. The flat tax funds total operating expenses of $17,293,362 for Fiscal Year 2020, a 3.15 percent increase on FY 2018-2019. The budget also includes $3.9 million for capital projects, covered by accrued sales tax surpluses, for a total general fund budget of just more than $21 million.

Meanwhile, “What we’ve proposed is a two percent increase to keep up with inflation in the utility fund,” Selleck added. “We didn’t need to continue the 5-7 percent increases we’ve done in past years. The current proposal is just to maintain the inflation rate.

“The longer story on this is we’ve known nearly the entire utility system needs to be replaced on as a short of term as we can reasonably do it. This is primarily a planning year; this is sort of the lull year then next year will be more of a funding year.”

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