WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — On Tuesday, the Wichita Falls City Council voted on a proposed tax rate and held a public hearing on a proposed budget that could get final approval in September.
However, that rate will bring in more revenue than last year because of increased property values, but that will still not be enough to make up for cuts or hiring freezes made to hold the line.
The city council voted to a proposed tax rate, just over 76 cents per $100 of assessed value, that they may adopt on September 1. The tax rate is the same as last year, which would bring in 3.8 percent more revenue because of an increase in property values. The proposed budget is $184.4 million — about $9.6 million less than the current budget.
“When we do see increases in overall value, then the same rate generates more revenue,” Wichita Falls Finance Director/CFO Jessica Williams said.
To bring in the same amount of revenue as last year, the rate would need to be lowered to just over 74 cents. At Tuesday’s meeting, District Five City Councilor Steve Jackson recommended the council make that decision but later voted with the rest of the council on the higher rate when told by staff that the lower rate would mean cuts to police and fire positions.
City Manager Darron Leiker said all of the city’s general fund revenue, which represents 44% of the total budget, has fallen because of the pandemic. The city responded early by suspending non-emergency spending and freezing hiring of vacant positions.
“The city manager met with each director individually to really discuss how far they could decrease costs and still maintain services,” Williams said.
Public Works Director Russell Schreiber said his department like others is feeling the pain of budget cuts.
“We’ve lost positions, “Schreiber said, “We haven’t rehired positions. We’re struggling to stay up.”
The Public Works Department, which has one of the highest number of employees, is trying to meet work orders with fewer workers.
“We’re 15 guys short in the street department right now so we’re trying to stay ahead of the utility cuts, the potholes and mowing the right of ways, but we simply can’t stay up with being short that many people.”
Schreiber said he wouldn’t say the department as a whole is struggling but admits it’s getting hard to maintain the level of service residents were accustomed to in pre-COVID times, something many city department heads must be feeling as they try to tighten their belts in the midst of a global pandemic.
If you are interested in job positions in the Public Works department, click here.