The city is hammering out a 2014-15 general operating budget that as of Monday stood at $44.2 million, a nearly 5 percent increase over the 2013-14 budget. But officials say they expect to fund the difference with rising revenues from building permits, sales taxes and other sources -- without raising the property tax rate.The preliminary budget includes only three new positions – two patrol officers and a property evidence technician for the police department. Other requests for new positions, including nine for the fire department, are not currently funded in the budget.The budget, set for a public hearing at the Aug. 25 City Council meeting, also provides for staff merit raises of up to 3 percent.The council and staff met last week to hone the budget, which includes $35.6 million in projected property tax revenues. That’s nearly 7 percent over the 2013-14 budget’s property taxes revenues and mirrors a similar rise in the city’s overall taxable value, now at $4.97 billion, said Finance Director Peter Phillis.“The city’s budget is a reflection of a healthy economy and a healthy community,” said Phillis said.The city’s tax and fee revenues have been on the rise since bottoming out in the recession of 2008.Sales tax revenues are projected to increase 3 percent to about $9 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Fee revenues from city building permits are estimated to increase 8 percent $1.4 million.The preliminary budget also provides $1.7 million for capital projects, including:$662,000 to buy 10 new police patrol cars, including eight replacement cars; a pickup and stock trailer for the animal control center, a command vehicle for the fire department; and cardiac monitors and other emergency equipment.$250,000 to expand the library’s parking lot and upgrade the interior with new carpeting, additional shelving and other improvements$200,000 to upgrade the audio-visual equipment in the City Council chamber.$90,000 for next year’s celebration of the city’s 125th anniversary.The city plans to commit to keeping the same tax rate for next year – 71 cents per $100 of assessed property value – in a required advertisement that will be placed next week, Phillis said.The second public hearing is set for Sept. 2 at the council chamber, 1200 E. Broad St. The council will vote on the budget and tax rate Sept. 8, 9 and 10.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann