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Bellmead budget proposal prioritizes wage increases, city development

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City Manager Yost Zakhary is proposing a decreased property tax rate in his 2023 budget.

The Bellmead City Council is contemplating a budget meant to ensure support for city employees, improve public safety and fund a plan to beautify and update the town.

City Manager Yost Zakhary is proposing a property tax rate of 32.32 cents per $100 valuation, a decrease of about 5 cents from last year, and half-a-cent more than the no-new-revenue rate.

When the city can afford to lower the rate, it will, Zakhary said during a city council meeting Tuesday. However, the number could be subject to increase in the future, he said.

The budget document says the city has the lowest property tax rate and property values in the area, leading to a less robust revenue stream and difficulties creating a balanced budget in the general fund.

The average market value of homes in Bellmead increased from $113,591 in 2021 to $149,453 this year, an almost 32% jump. With tax exemptions and a cap on annual increases, the average taxable value of homes in Bellmead increased from $101,824 to $114,518, a jump of about 13%.

An owner of a home with a taxable value of $115,000 in 2021 would owe $431.47 in property taxes.

With a 13% increase to $129,950 in 2022 and the city’s proposed tax rate, the owner would owe $419.96.

With the same increase and the no-new-revenue tax rate of 31.82 cents per $100 valuation, the owner would owe $413.45. The no-new-revenue rate is the rate at which the city would collect the same amount of revenue year-to-year, excluding properties newly added to the tax rolls.

The city expects property taxes this year to bring in $51,144 more than last year, including $21,506 from new property added this year.

A public hearing for the tax rate is set for Aug. 30.

The budget document lists increasing wages as integral in maintaining a high-performing government.

The city’s employee turnover rate saw a high of 39.19% in 2019, city administrators wrote. The turnover rate projected for 2022 is 13.16%, and officials attribute the improvement to city’s ongoing effort to increase employee morale and satisfaction.

All city employees will see a 3% cost-of-living raise under the proposed budget, which would be the city’s second uniform wage increase since the pay scale was adopted in 2006.

The city has used the same pay scale since 2006.

Public safety employees will see a brand new pay scale included in the 2023 budget that will bring wages closer to the level of comparable positions at other cities. The estimated cost of the higher pay for public safety employees is set at $250,000. In the budget document, officials wrote that pay increases are necessary to be competitive with surrounding areas and to help morale.

Turnover in the city’s police department is 10.71%, a significant decrease from the historic rates of 30 to 50%, according to the budget. The document says the improvement is a result of offering more competitive wages, hiring incentives and upgraded equipment, among other factors.

City administrators say several budget cycles are necessary before the pay scale can be adjusted for positions of lieutenant and higher, because adjustments for those positions are more costly.

Of the general fund, 57.74% of expenditures will be spent on public safety.

“The disparity in employee compensation must be addressed this year and for several years to come for the City to attract and retain a talented workforce,” the document says.

The budget lists many other proposed changes and projects, including:

$300,000 put toward pavement restoration. The pavement management program began in the summer of 2021 and will continue in 2023.

Bellmead contributing $1.75 million to a $31 million joint project with Waco, Lacy Lakeview and Texas State Technical College for a sewer interceptor that is expected to open up space for development.

A 5% increase for all solid waste services in 2023. The budget says this will offset an increase in solid waste provider costs tied to high fuel prices.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is helping fund upgrades to downtown Bellmead. Construction of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks and lighting downtown is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023.

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Kourtney David is a Baylor University graduate from Springfield, Missouri. She joined the Tribune-Herald staff in July 2022.

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