WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Wichita Falls City Councilors met today for the first public hearing on the 2019-2020 proposed tax rate.
And while there is about a $0.04 higher tax rate in the proposed rate for the next budget, whether that will remain or be set lower remains to be seen.
Some say a tax increase is needed if the city wants to stop the high turnover in the fire and police departments.
Wichita Falls Police Officers Association President John Spragins said in order to bring fire and police pay up to that in similar cities, the tax rate might need to be raised.
City Councilors said in a previous meeting they do not intend to raise the tax rate, but they set the published proposed rate at $0.76, which is slightly higher than the current rate of $0.72, In case of any unforeseen circumstances that may arise before the final budget is approved.
Councilors said the current tax rate will still allow a 2.5% cost-of-living raise for employees because of a boost in sales tax and other revenues last year.
Sergeant Spragins said that increase needs to be 5% to bring police and fire pay up to a competitive rate with other cities, which might offer a $10,000 to $15,000 higher starting salary than Wichita Falls.
“I’ve always said that police and fire kinda sit into a unique situation and often the city has to look at all the employees, but these police and firefighters are putting their lives on the line every day. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for average salaries as compared to our comparison cities in Texas.” Sergeant John Spragins Wichita Falls Police Officer’s Association President.
Sergeant Spragins also agreed raising taxes is never popular, but it’s sometimes necessary, and in this case critical.
There will be a second hearing on the tax rate on September 10, with council approving the 2019-2020 tax rate at their regular session September 17.