Property owners could be in for sticker shock when they look at their tax bills next month.
After a tumultuous debate over increasing the property tax rate, the Bedford city council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to raise it by 8 percent. But that’s not as high as the 18 percent projected by some heading into Tuesday’s meeting.
The tax rate for the next fiscal year will be 56.1862 cents per $100 of assessed value, up from 52 cents.
However, there was drama when the vote was taken after Councilwoman Amy Sabol left the meeting early because she was in pain from having back surgery recently. With Sabol absent, the vote was 4-2, and not the 60 percent majority required by the tax code to adopt the new rate.
But when Sabol returned about 25 minutes later, she stood at the door and gave a thumbs-up, making it a 5-2 vote.
Under the new rate, Bedford will be able to add three firefighters and two police officers, plus a neighborhood services manager and fire equipment manager.
The council also approved an operating budget of $73,196,784.
The council quibbled over how the property tax rate will influence Bedford’s future. Several, including Mayor Jim Griffin and Councilman Roy Turner, wanted to increase the tax rate to 58 cents, which would have been enough to fill 11 vacant police and fire department positions.
However, Councilman Michael Boyter said that the council is being short-sighted and needs to get away from relying so heavily on property taxes. He discussed the need for Bedford Commons to be a “destination” and Bedford needs a new approach for development that would lessen the need for property taxes.
Newly elected councilman Dan Cogan told the Star-Telegram previously that Bedford hasn’t hired a new police officer since 2001 and a firefighter since 1998.
Dorothy McWhorter, a longtime opponent of raising taxes, spoke in favor of the increase because Bedford “is coming apart.”
In 2005, McWhorter led a voter initiative for a rollback election that resulted in the library closing for several days until a North Richland Hills insurance company saved the day with a donation.
This article contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.