Wichita Falls City Councilors Have Mixed Feelings on Proposed Tax Hike

- Wichita Falls city councilors appear to be divided on a proposed two cent property tax hike to fund raises for city employees.

They all seem to agree that some sort of raise is needed for city employees, but how to accomplish it is still being figured out.

“We have to protect our citizens. We can't afford to lose our highly trained employees,” says Bobby Whitley with the Firefighter Association.

Representatives with the firefighter and police associations say they just can't afford to lose anymore employees.

“We lost a couple of firefighters to Fort Worth, we're loosing another firefighter, he put his resignation in last week, a three year kid, we're gonna loose him and his family,” says Whitley.

“It is a challenge because these young people, putting their time and effort into getting a higher education, they're looking, they're seeing what other cities have to offer,” says William Haisten, WF Police Officers Association.

The proposed 2-cent property tax hike would equal a 4-percent raise in city employees' salaries. But Haisten and Whitley say both firefighter and police salaries are below average when compared to similar cities. And he says even with a raise, they would still be below average.

Some councilors say the increase is well worth it because it's an investment in the quality of our city.

“Your city government provides services that I think most of us everyday,” says Councilor at Large, Micheal Smith.

And councilor Tom Quintero says it's time to reward employees that have stuck by the city in departments who have already cut costs where they can.

“What you don't really see is across the city of Wichita Falls departments have made cuts, cuts in personnel, cuts in time, cuts in services,” says Quintero.

Councilor Tim Ingle says the recent 53% water rate hike is enough to put on the residents, and although he hopes employees can get raises, he says they need to look at trimming the fat in the budget, instead of passing it to the people.

“I think it's the city's turn to step up and make a small little cut here,” says Ingle.

And councilor Ben Hoover agrees.

“Let's say we approve a one cent increase, could we as Tim proposed, look within the budget and see if there's room there to get to the 2- percent without the 2 -cent tax increase,” says Hoover.

Mayor Glenn Barham says that even with the water rate increase announced a few weeks ago,  most Wichita Falls residents will ultimately have smaller city bills. He says that's because of the WFISD tax rate decrease.

They lowered their tax rate by 7 cents - savings that could be combated next year if the school board gets a new bond proposal voted through

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