City moves forward with $130M budget

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Aug. 24, 2017 at 8:06 p.m.
Updated Aug. 24, 2017 at 8:14 p.m.

Victoria City Hall is located at 105 W. Juan Linn Street in downtown Victoria.

Victoria City Hall is located at 105 W. Juan Linn Street in downtown Victoria.   CAROLINA ASTRAIN/CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM for The Victoria Advocate

Even with Hurricane Harvey hurling toward the South Texas coast, the City Council met Thursday evening to discuss a government spending plan for 2018.

Thursday, the City Council took the first step to move forward with a $130 million budget that details exactly how city officials plan to divvy up funds between critical services such as road repairs, police and firefighters. The public was given time during Thursday's meeting to comment on the proposal, but the room was largely empty as government officials and residents braced for Hurricane Harvey.

Still, the City Council discussed whether or not to raise the property tax rate by 1 cent over the effective tax rate.

Councilman Tom Halepaska said he worried that increase wouldn't be enough to cover rising costs of critical city services such as roads, police and fire.

"It's got to come from somewhere," said Halepaska. "It's not magic."

But most council members at the meeting weren't supportive of the increase, which means the tax rate won't be raised more than originally planned.

Councilwoman Josephine Soliz said in the current economy, the city should tighten its belt and be efficient with the resources it already has.

"One more year is not going to save all the streets," said Soliz.

Also during the meeting, City Manager Charmelle Garrett announced Victoria issued a mandatory evacuation notice. Residents - especially in low areas of the county - should move to higher ground, Garrett said.

"The weather service is using the term 'dire situation,'" said Garrett.

The City Council also agreed to allowed the city to hire a private contractor to help deal with the storm - specifically for removing debris such as fallen trees and branches.

"They will stay and do as much work as they need to," said Garrett, adding the state has also deployed resources to deal with the storm's aftermath.

If the wind speeds are sustained at more than 45 mph per hour, it will be too dangerous for emergency responders such as police and fire to respond, she said.

Within the last few hours, the storm strengthened, and it is expected to bring up to a couple feet of rain and winds over 100 mph to the Crossroads area.


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