Reducing the city’s tax rate was a topic of discussion at Baytown council’s budget workshop.
“We take care of our employees, as we should, and we should take care of our citizens. They need a salary increase as well,” said Councilman Chris Presley. “And I see that in the form of doing something about this astronomical tax rate.”
The current Baytown tax rate is $0.82 per $100 of valuation. Some other nearby cities have a lower rate, such as Deer Park with a $0.72 per $100 of valuation, without the same industrial tax base as Baytown.
Councilman Bob Hoskins talked about decreasing the tax rate to around a penny.
“This is needed, and I think we can still do that. We need a budget with this decrease,” Hoskins said.
One of the first things business owners consider when coming to Baytown is the tax rate, according to Hoskins.
“And it tends to shoot them the other direction,” he said. “I think we can decrease the tax rate by at least (a penny) and I think the budget can support that without getting into the quality of service we provide to the citizens of Baytown.”
Mayor Brandon Capetillo said he is open to options concerning lowering the tax rate.
“Let’s see what we can do to get our tax rate down to keep as much money in taxpayer’s pocket,” Capetillo said.
City Manager Rick Davis pointed to 9 cents of the tax rate being related to the city’s 2007 bond. It included projects such as the creation of Blue Heron and the city’s 911 center.
“Incrementally decreasing the tax rate sends a positive message,” Davis said.
Council also discussed raising the tax exemption for people 65 and older from $50,000 to $75,000.
“We should think about expanding exemptions for 65 and older individuals since they need relief as they are on fixed incomes,” Davis said.
Capetillo asked staff to look at what a penny decrease would look like.
“What adjustments can be made? What would exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 look like,” Capetillo said. “We need the totals to see what the financial impact is and see where we want to end up.”
Council will further discuss a tax decrease at their work session, which is at 5:30 p.m. tonight in the Hullum Conference Room at City Hall, 2401 Market St. The session is open to the public.
Davis also talked about the proposed budget, which council will vote on either adopting or postponing after a public hearing tonight.
Davis said the proposed budget does not include a tax rate increase and no increases for the water and sewer rates. However, there is a proposed 2.5 percent increase in the sanitation fund.
The proposed budget, titled “Forward,” also includes $7 million in transportation improvements, several sewer improvement projects, the Bayland Island hotel/conference center, a new public safety center and jail, and a new animal control shelter.
“The budget we are proposing fully implements the plan council assembled through two retreats,” Davis said. “They identified their goals. And the council’s goals were based on the five strategic directives of the Community Based Strategic Plan.”
Council meets at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 2401 Market St., tonight. Agenda items and a video posting of the meeting, which will be available sometime after the meeting, can be viewed by logging on to www.baytown.org/city-hall/city-council/agendas-minutes.