The city’s tax rate will remain the same under the proposed city spending plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
City Manager Mark Hindman’s proposed budget calls for an unusual decrease in the general fund budget — the budget that covers salaries and day-to-day expenses — from $43.7 million this fiscal year to a proposed $43.3 million next fiscal year, roughly a 1 percent difference. Much of the change is because of the way ambulance revenues and expenses are now calculated, Hindman said.
Another $9.2 million in new capital spending — a section of the budget typically devoted to major construction projects — is also part of next fiscal year’s spending plan.
The city can maintain the property tax rate at 61 cents per $100 of assessed property value largely because of expected increases in property and sales tax revenues. The city of 64,000 continues to grow.
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But residents could still get a higher property tax bill, depending on whether their home’s value increased. Overall, net taxable values for the average North Richland Hills home increased from $125,603 in July 2013 to $132,841 in July 2014, though the average North Richland Hills’ home could sell for about $163,000, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District.
The council is expected to vote on the budget and tax rate Sept. 14.
Two years ago, the City Council increased the property tax rate by 4 cents to the current 61 cents, primarily to cover the cost of the estimated $70 million City Hall complex expected to open in January or February. The vote marked the first tax rate increase in 19 years. Residents approved $48 million in bonds for the City Hall project in a May 2012 election, which the city is now paying off.
Highlights of the proposed budget include:
▪ The new City Hall, off Boulevard 26, will house city offices, the Police Department and the Municipal Court. The current offices are scattered throughout the city. The expectation is that the complex will spin off development in an area that has been vacant since North Hills Mall was razed in 2007. The city is expected to spend $5.5 million next fiscal year to pay off a portion of the bonds used to pay for the project.
▪ Street maintenance would get $1 million, with $200,000 going to repave and other work on Cagle Drive near the new City Hall. Another $172,600 would go to a pothole-patching unit.
▪ City employees would receive a 3 percent merit pay increase at a cost of $401,856. The city needs to keep pay competitive to maintain a “high caliber” workforce, Hindman wrote in his budget message.
▪ Northfield Park renovations would be funded at a cost of $397,000. Details are still being worked out. But the work could include a new entry, upgraded equipment and loop trails, according to the budget proposal.
Hindman included the idea of increasing the budget to add police body cameras, though a total cost figure has not been calculated. Traffic, bicycle and school resource officers already wear them. Hindman said the council might consider having all officers wear them. The city employs 107 full-time sworn officers.