NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- Residents of this city of about 63,000 are facing a 7 percent tax rate increase for the next fiscal year, and the City Council was ready Monday night to hear from them about higher taxes.But no one spoke."I'm not surprised," Mayor Pro Tem Tom Lombard said. "I'm not surprised at all."He noted that in May, city voters approved by a 2-1 margin the sale of $48 million in bonds to help pay for a new City Hall on Boulevard 26. Voters knew their taxes would go up to pay for that.If approved by the City Council on Sept. 10, it will be the city's first tax rate increase since 1993.During the hearing Monday, City Manager Mark Hindman said there is never a good time to increase tax rates."It's come to a point where we cannot really afford to move forward with what ... voters approved and still maintain the level of services that the citizens are demanding and informing us that they would like us to provide," Hindman said.The proposed tax rate is 61 cents per $100 of assessed property value, up from the current rate of 57 cents per $100.The tax bill for the owner of the average North Richland Hill home assessed at $122,598 would increase about $49 to about $748, city administrators say.The increased tax rate will also help pay for the proposed $40.7 million general operating budget, a 7.8 percent increase over this year's $37.7 million. The budget, which covers salaries and day-to-day expenses, would take effect Oct. 1.The budget includes reimbursements from Haltom City, Richland Hills and Watauga for a joint emergency dispatch and jail operation, amounting to about a 3.3 percent budget increase for North Richland Hills, Hindman said.Budget highlights include:$99,000 for another building inspector and a customer service assistant in the planning and development department because of an increase in building permit requests. Also, $32,579 for a parks maintenance worker because the city has more landscaping needs with the opening this year of the NRH Centre recreation complex, Davis Boulevard landscaping improvements and other projects.$900,000 for street maintenance, up from $800,000 this fiscal year. Another $50,000 would go to repairing and adding sidewalks.Giving the City Council the option to spend $281,506 for merit pay increases for city employees that would average 2 percent.
A second hearing on the North Richland Hills tax rate is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. The council is scheduled to vote Sept. 10 on the tax rate increase and the city budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.