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$25.7 million Kilgore budget gets OK

By Glenn Evans
Sept. 11, 2013 at 10 p.m.

KILGORE - Kilgore stays on a path of large capital improvements in a $25.7 million annual spending plan approved Tuesday, but the focus shifts somewhat from nuts-and-bolts infrastructure spending to quality-of-life projects.

The coming year's budget, which takes effect Oct. 1, includes a 5 percent hike for water customers and a 2-cent property tax hike to .42 cents per $100 property value. Trash collection rates are not changing, though recently exchanging one weekly trash pickup for a recyclables pickup day is experiencing growing pains, City Manager Scott Sellers said.

"For the most part it is working out very well," he said, adding that some residents are having to adjust to the limited number of trash bags that fit in the new, 90-gallon curbside trash bins on the one trash pickup day.

Sellers added that the water rate increase adds .48 cents to monthly residential bills.

The property tax increase will add $20 to the annual bill on a $100,000 home with no exemptions claimed.

Penning his second annual budget for the City of Stars, Sellers stayed the course on a long-range street and infrastructure schedule, with a $2.2 million water meter upgrade, $557,000 to extend sewer service to newly annexed land at Texas 42 and and $570,000 to repaint the Laird Hill water tower.

Annexation of land at Texas 42 and Interstate 20 boosted the city's overall tax base, Sellers said. The tax base remains largely industrial, with those businesses shouldering well more than half the city's property tax burden.

Council members were unanimous in passing the budget and tax rate Tuesday.

The planned capital expenditures follow almost $1 million spent this past year on upgrades at the Rabbit Creek water plant and infrastructure work in the Remington Estates development.

"Fiscal year 2012-13 was a banner-year budget for capital improvements," Sellers said. "We had projects sitting on the shelf and a cash balance that was fairly healthy."

And while the coming year's plan keeps up the infrastructure commitment, it shifts more attention to leisure and sports elements of city living.

Sellers said the budget includes a $100,000 city match toward a $575,000 network of walking trails that will connect the city's northern and southern neighborhoods. A Texas Parks and Wildlife grant and money from the Kilgore Economic Development Corp. pave the remainder of the walking trails budget.

About $1.5 million is earmarked for a planned sports complex.

The city's cash balance as of July was $10.8 million. The balance in the utility fund, which is accounted separately as if it were a standalone business, was almost $4.4 million.

The spending plan includes a cost-of-living increase for employees, who also receive an average 3 percent pay hike in planned step raises, Sellers said.

"(There are) no new employees," he added. "As a matter of fact, we've eliminated two positions."

Axing an assistant librarian position and an assistant's job in administration saved more than $100,000, Sellers said.



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