Property appraisals in the city of Denison saw an increase of about $51 million in 2014, said City Manager Robert Hanna during a City Council meeting on Monday. The discussion on City revenue came up as the Council continued its work on setting the budget for the 2015 fiscal year.
Hanna said the preliminary roll showed an increase of between $50 million and $55 million when compared to current rolls.
“The preliminary roll is nine times out of ten not going to happen,” said Hanna. “This time it happened.”
The increase in property values will translate to increased revenue for the city. Along with the increase in tax revenue for the city, Hanna said he is in the process of adjusting the sales tax and solid waste fees to reflect the increase.
“What you are seeing here is one more month into the process and the numbers are that much more solid,” said Hanna.
Despite the increase in revenue for the city, Hanna is recommending that the tax rate, which is currently at 0.65 percent, be kept at the same rate. Hanna made the suggestion due to what he called a “laundry list of things that need to be done,” and projects that are not currently funded.
“We have legitimate long-term needs that need to be addressed and the only way they will be addressed is through revenue,” he said.
In giving examples of projects that could be funded with the increased revenue, Hanna mentioned park maintenance and street repair and maintenance.
“We need street maintenance that doesn’t use a 20-year debt for a 10-year asset,” said Hanna.
Following the conversation of the upcoming budget, Hanna reported that the insurance rates paid for city employees are likely to see an increase in the next fiscal year. The city provides insurance through the Texas Municipal League and its Intergovernmental Employee Benefits Pool.
Through the practice, Denison and municipalities from across the state pool their purchasing power to provide lower rates and stability to all those involved. Over the past two years, rates have increase approximately 4 percent, Hanna said. The 2015 budget is already set to account for a 5 percent increase, but Hanna estimated that the increase could be 10 percent or higher.
To compensate for this, Hanna said staff is weighing options including lowering the benefits package that the city will fully fund.
In other budget matters, Hanna said that city staff is currently working on looking at private sector options for grounds maintenance and landscaping over hiring a manager for the city, as recommended by the Council in its last meeting.
As staff looks into its options, Hanna recommended that the council leave the funding for the position until other options are explored. Council member Ken Brawley asked that a baseline for expectations be drafted during the search so that it can be used when surveying and weighing options.
In switching to the current budget, Hanna said the water sales revenue is expected to be lower than budgeted. Hanna said water sales dropped through June and July due to the wetter and cooler weather the region has experienced this season.
“We are glad it is (cooler), but it hurts our weather revenue,” said Hanna.
Despite the drop in revenue, which Hanna estimated could be as high as $200,000, he said the decrease is “not a cause for alarm.”
Monday’s meeting also saw the introduction of Kyle Hockersmith, Denison’s new assistant director of Public Works. The position was created during the budgeting process for the 2014 fiscal year.
Hockersmith comes to Denison from Lewisville where he served as a project manager. Public Works Director David Howerton said that Hockersmith will be working on several projects in the upcoming weeks including drainage projects, evaluating a failed street section along Crawford and managing ongoing construction projects, including the work in Forest Park.
Hockersmith said he was excited to start his work in Denison.