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City of Hallsville plans to propose lower tax rate

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Aug. 7, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Increased property values combined with anticipated higher sales tax revenue is behind a tax rate decrease that Hallsville city officials will propose tonight.

The City Council also will consider the city's proposed 2012-13 budget and police-related issues during a 5:30 workshop session at City Hall, 115 W. Main St.

To fund the new fiscal year budget, city officials are proposing a .2778 cent tax rate, which is less than last year's .306 cent tax rate.

This year's budget is expected to be balanced, and does not contain many added expenditures, said City Secretary Laura Welch.

The proposed budget has no funding for capital improvements, and no money for new employees, though existing employees will likely see a 3 percent across-the-board pay raise.

There will be no rate increase for water and sewer customers, Mayor Jerri Medrano said.

This year's certified appraised values reflect growth in the city, said Karen Jeans, Harrison Central Appraisal District chief appraiser.

Total certified appraised values, at $177.3 million, reflect a 2.9 percent gain above this past year's $172.2 million.

If Hallsville's City Council approves the proposed .2778 tax rate per $100 valuation, the owner of a $100,000 home will see his city tax bill decrease by $29, from $306 to $277 before any applicable exemptions are applied.

The number of taxable accounts in Hallsville grew from 1,667 in 2011 to 1,687 in 2012.

"The increase in Hallsville's taxable values did not come from just one place; it is all over the place, which is usually associated with growth," Jeans said.

Hallsville's proposed budget also reflects an anticipated increase in sales tax revenue, up $55,000 from this past year to the $275,000 budgeted for the new fiscal year budget.

City Secretary Laura Welch said the city does not have a total for the proposed budget because the city's water and sewer budget has not been completed.

Welch anticipates the water and sewer portion will be decided at today's budget work session.

The city has budgeted $694,000 in general fund expenses.

The City Council has until Sept. 30 to adopt a budget, but expects to adopt it by Sept. 18. The city's tax rate is scheduled for adoption on Aug. 21.

In other matters, city aldermen will also consider two issues related to the police department.

The department's "take home" vehicle policy and the department's vehicle use policy for side security jobs will be discussed in open session, Medrano said.

Though the city is in the process of developing long term police policies, a temporary policy is needed, Medrano said.

At present, only Paul Montoya, the city's police chief, is using a police vehicle at a side security job.

Because of the amount of time he is on call, Montoya is also the only officer allowed to take a police vehicle home.

An officer is sometimes allowed to use police vehicles at side jobs, depending on the nature of the job.

"It depends on where it is. If it is a football game, or something here local, then they have to get permission in advance. There are forms they have to fill out," Medrano said.

The City Council is also looking at ways the city would be compensated for gasoline used at police side jobs.

The city has experienced problems in the past year with high fuel and maintenance costs associated with police vehicles, but those problems have ceased, Medrano said.

"There were allegations some (police vehicles) were used for personal vehicles," Medrano said.

With the resignation of fpolice chief Gregg Scott in July, the department's make-up has substantially changed in a year's time.

Of the four officers employed by the city, none have been with the police department more than a few months.

Montoya has the most seniority. He was first hired in January, and has since been named police chief, following Scott's resignation.

Along with Scott, two officers, Mack Fuller and T.C. Livingston, were fired by the mayor in December for violating city policies, but were subsequently rehired in March by a split 3-2 City Council vote.

All three have since resigned.

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