KELLER — The tax rate will stay the same in Keller for the fifth straight year if council adopts the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014.City Council held two public hearings, on Sept. 3 and 10, on the proposed rate, at 44.219 cents per $100 of valuation.The water/waste-water rate also will not increase with the proposed $74 million budget, which includes economic development investments, public safety purchases and park upgrades.The budget includes nearly $2 million to be spent on personnel, including a 3 percent merit raise, market adjustments, personnel upgrades and additional employees.Other adjustments to the budget include more expensive insurance premiums.“The big hit this year was the insurance,” City Manager Steve Polasek said during an Aug. 29 City Council workshop. “Our insurance increases were substantial ... the total increase was over a million dollars.”Polasek said going forward “hopefully things will calm down” and rates will not continue to rise.“There is still a lot of things out there that are unknown,” he said. “And it’s at a national level that we cannot control.”The proposed budget also includes the purchase of a replacement fire engine, funds for a citywide emergency notification system and a partnership that will provide the fire department with real-time weather radar.The police department will receive technology upgrades and funding for the expanded Regional Jail and Regional Animal Adoption Center.Proposed projects include developing Shady Grove Park including plans for community gardens and improving the Shady Grove trail connection, renovations to Bear Creek Park, preserving trails and adding interactive art displays along Big Bear Creek, and an expansion of The Keller Pointe.Upgrades to the water, waste-water and street infrastructure include waste-water expansion into northern Keller, replacement/expansion of the Alta Vista Pump Station and participation in Phase II of Farm Road 1938 construction.“We also have a tremendous amount of sidewalks going in as part of our Safe Routes to School program,” Polasek said.At the conclusion of the work session, Mayor Pat McGrail thanked city staff for their hard work on the new budget.“You’ve given us what we’ve asked for, in some cases you’ve exceeded our expectations,” he said. “It’s just a shame we got stuck with that health-care cost. But there’s not much we can do with that, it’s something that everybody is having to deal with.”City Council will vote on the proposed budget and tax rate during the Sept. 17 meeting.
Susan McFarland, 817-390-7547 Twitter: @susanmcfarland1