Mayor Barron Casteel said he’s pleased with the city’s 2019-20 budget, which New Braunfels City Council members passed unanimously on Monday.
The $242.4 million measure, $56.3 million more than the current $186.1 million budget, goes into effect on Oct. 1. General fund expenditures total $74.349 million, 8.3% more than last year, with 54% of it going toward public safety.
“Just look at the number of officers we were able to fund as part of the plan for city services, which is one goal we worked on, and I’m excited all of the other various areas we were able to improve upon in this budget,” Casteel said.
The budget designates $1.94 million for employee compensation investment. Uniformed fire and police responders will receive market salary adjustments and step plan increases totaling at least 3%; non-uniformed city employees will receive cost of living salary adjustments of 2% and merit increases of up to 1.5%.
Council approved adding four additional patrol officers for the second year of the police department power shift. They also approved the first reading of an ordinance revising stipends for officers earning certifications and advanced education in the police and fire departments, which will total $243,800 more in the new budget.
Casteel said the city’s self-insurance and golf course fund have rebounded since near depletion three years ago, and Das Rec operations are exceeding initial projections.
“I’m very excited about the work and management performed by city staffers, which has placed us in a good position for all of this,” he said. “We were able to maintain the tax rate while incorporating the bond initiatives,” he said.
Before council approved the city’s 2019 combined tax rate of 48.822 cents per $100 assessed property valuation, resident Bob Wolf stepped forward to request members to consider a 2-cent rollback on the property tax rate for all residences and businesses.
“There are two reasons behind this proposal,” he said. “The economy has increased our property valuations immensely — not only from new construction but values of existing properties — both business and private ownership. The second is to keep our taxes as low as possible and still provide good government services.”
Wolf said such a rollback would only reduce revenues by $1 million, amounting to about 0.4 percent of the total budget, and wouldn’t impact funding for bond projects or city services.
“I believe this will benefit the ratepayers without negatively affecting the city,” he said.
The new budget was higher because of 2013 and 2019 bond projects — the latter totaling $120 million. The 2013 bond, which totaled $86 million, passed despite the forecast it would add an 8.8-cent increase per each $100 assessed taxable property valuation.
Casteel pointed out the projected increase in property taxes over the 2013 bond term, never happened due to increased property values over the five-year period. In 2017, for the first time in four years, the property tax rate dropped 1.001 cents — from 49.8230 cents per $100 to 48.8220 cents — and has remained the same since.
“All of it put us in a much better position to afford the 2019 bond,” he said, adding that future growth will assure completion of those projects without increasing taxes. “Future councils will likely see tax decreases even as the costs of the bond are being absorbed.”
Council adopted the tax rate, which will remain the same for a third consecutive year.
Members also approved issuing $5 million in certificates of obligation for the first installment of New Braunfels Economic Development Corporation’s $15 million commitment toward the regional sports complex. They also approved $18.485 million in general obligation bonds to launch 2019 bond projects, and another $2.551 million in GOs for drainage improvements in the 2013 bond.