College Station City Council adopted a budget of $341.2 million and an increased tax rate of 53.4618 cents per $100 assessed valuation at Thursday night’s meeting.
The newly adopted budget — which received a 6-1 vote for approval — had minor changes, including an increase of $6,345 to the overall budget. The new tax rate, which is a $0.028777-cent increase from the current rate, received a 5-2 vote for approval.
Council members Elianor Vessali and Jerome Rektorik voted against the tax increase.
The new budget includes funds for service level increases including six firefighters using a SAFER Grant Award, five new patrol officers and a new economic development coordinator.
The tax rate increase means that the average homeowner, with a $280,000 house, will pay an extra $8.58 of city taxes per month. Even with the city and Brazos County tax increases, the school district has lowered its rate, which will cause a $257.15 decrease in overall tax bills for average College Station homeowners.
When she voted against the budget and tax rate, Vessali said she was not comfortable with supporting the increase when issues — including sales tax — have not been addressed. Additionally, Vessali said some of the negative reactions are the result not only of the increase but the level of rollback.
Before he voted in favor of the budget, Councilman John Nichols said the tax rate increase is critical, especially since the city is still recovering from revenue limitations that were incurred during the Great Recession. Additionally, Nichols said that College Station has one of the lowest tax rates, but going any lower would diminish services.
“Most of the budget reflects the needs to address the impacts of growth,” Nichols said. “Growth doesn’t always pay for itself. We have to keep up with that.”
Nichols also said that during years that the city adopted the effective tax rate, there was a higher turnover as a result of being unable to compensate staff properly.
Councilman Dennis Maloney also spoke in strong favor of the budget and tax rate, saying he believes the amount residents pay is fair for the quality of the services they receive in return.
“In exchange for what you get for your services, I think it’s a pretty good bargain,” Maloney said.
Before the tax rate increase was approved, four College Station residents spoke against the tax rate increase. Michael Nibert said when he worked in hospital management, he was taught to manage the budget the same as he would his own checkbook — a lesson Nibert said he hopes the council takes into consideration as they manage people’s taxes.
Councilman Jerome Rektorik said he agreed with Nibert. Additionally, Rektorik said he understands the importance of taxes, but thinks the city could get more revenue through other agencies or look at the reserves to cover the difference instead of raising to rate this much.
“While I supported the budget that the staff proposes, I frankly do have a problem supporting the tax rate that staff is proposing,” Rektorik said. “I think we’ve probably gone a bridge too far.”
While many different tax rates were considered, City Manager Bryan Woods said he ultimately recommended the newly approved rate partly to help stabilize the fund balance in the future.
During the meeting, councilmembers also approved the acceptance of a $315,597 Assistance to Firefighters Grant, $1.8 million contract for the second phase of the Fun for All Playground at Central Park and a $325,000 amendment to the FY 2019 budget.
To view presentations from the meeting and read about the workshop held prior to the city council meeting, visit blog.cstx.gov.
To read the 2020 budget, which includes information on the tax rate increase, visit cstx.gov/budget.
Editor's note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the tax rate was a $0.028778-cent increase, when it is actually a $0.028777-cent increase from the FY 2019 rate.