Tax rate draws critics, supporters

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A proposed budget and tax rate drew mixed reviews from Pearlaand residents during the first of two public hearings Monday.

“What services are we being offered for this extra money above the rollback rate?” asked Pearland resident and CPA Lisa Hudanich. “I think a lot of people in here have that question.”

The council on Aug. 15 approved a proposed tax rate of 68.12 cents per $100 valuation – a 2-cent reduction from the current rate of 70.53 cents, but still above the calculated rollback rate of 66.56 cents per $100 valuation, and the effective rate of 63.92 cents.

“Your professional services, your industry incentives are growing year over year,” Hudanich told the council. “Scrub your budgets. That’s what I do every year. We look at everything and pinch every penny until they scream, and that’s what I suggest you do.”

Hudanich’s comments drew large applause, but not all citizens who spoke agreed.

“We’ve grown a lot and the city staff is working hard,” says longtime resident Charlie McMurray, “but you’re not giving them the money they need to provide services. Quit financing yourself with debt and increase your tax rate.”

Proposed revenues for the coming year are $73.91 million, and expenditures are projected at $76.2 million. The fund balance is projected to be $12 million, above the required two-month reserve by $450,322, according to city documents.

Fund balance, along with streets and sidewalks and building a patrol fleet are the focus of the budget.

“Maybe there’s not a lot of fancy new things in the budget, but it’s taking care of business and holding things together in priority areas,” City Manager Clay Pearson said.

Included in the proposed budget is $1.1 million for a 3 percent cost-of-living raise, police step raises and a police staffing study implementation costing $200,000.

Councilman Keith Ordeneaux pointed out that in the late 1990s, the tax rate stood at 90 cents.

“It got lowered to 65 cents if I remember correctly. We have cut taxes; it happened a long time ago. My argument is we have to look at our infrastructure. If we want to budget the way we’ve been budgeting and spend the way we’ve been spending, I don’t think my children will want to stay here, and I know my grandchildren won’t. I don’t want to pay more property taxes than anybody in this room, but I’ll pay more to keep Pearland the city that it is.”

A second public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6. A first reading to adopt the budget and tax rate is expected on Sept. 12, with a final reading on Sept. 19.

For more information about public meetings, visit pearlandtx.gov.

Story by Nicole Jones

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