Tax rate unsettled among Victoria officials

  • $49 million budget Proposal

  • Total personnel: $30.1 millionTotal maintenance and operations: $13.4 millionTotal capital expenses: $5.5 millionSource: City of Victoria

The tax rate debate among Victoria City Council members is anything but over.

Until that is set, prioritizing major street and utility projects could be at a standstill.

Staff members presented the second half of the proposed budget Tuesday evening, one laid out with a lower tax rate than the current.

While the proposed rate, 60.50 cents per $100 valuation, is a dip from the current tax rate of 60.56 cents, Mayor Paul Polasek and others on the council want to see it reduced more.

"I expect we can do better than another half-cent," Polasek said.

Councilwoman Josephine Soliz said she wants to see the rate lowered but did not say by how much.

She said she wants to first know how much 1 cent off the tax rate will effect the city's budget.

Polasek said it was clear that the city has room to cut.

However, if the tax rate is reduced, some major projects could continue to be kicked down the road.

Public Works Director Lynn Short is recommending the council move forward with about $10.8 million in major improvements in 2014 - including the new $2.66 million fire station and the $2.9 million extension of Ball Airport Road.

Councilman Tom Halepaska said he does not want to cut street projects. There is pressure to keep the tax rate low but also to address the community's needs, he said.

"Without the ability to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done now, you only delay it," he said. "It doesn't decrease the cost, and it doesn't decrease the need."

Councilman David Hagan said he wants to see the tax rate dropped to the effective rate, which would bring in the same amount of money from the previous year.

He urged the council to "play it conservative like the local taxpayer."

If the council adopts that tax rate, about 57.57 cents, the city will only be able to take on enough debt to cover about half the public works projects. The number of residential street projects would be reduced.

City Manager Charmelle Garrett recommended keeping the proposed rate.

She estimated that if the council adopted the effective tax rate, it would need to cut $1 million out of programs and staff.

"By postponing those rebuilds, it's just delaying it," she said. "We'll never catch up."