WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJLT) — Wichita Falls police, firefighters and non-civil service employees will be getting a small pay increase and property owners will see an increase in the tax rate from last year to pay for it.
Tuesday, city councilors voted to increase the property tax rate to a little more than $.76 cents, which will generate just over $1.6 million, providing a five percent cost of living increase to police and fire pay and a two percent increase to non-civil service employees.
It will also allow a two percent increase in the city’s contribution to the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) for employees, for a total of seven percent.
Six of seven councilors voted in favor of the increase. District 5 Councilor Steve Jackson was the only one opposed.
According to the council agenda, the $.763323 cents council approved is ” 8.10 percent above the effective tax rate, however, it is $.01 below the rollback tax rate of $.773323 and is 4.56% above the current tax rate. Adoption of this rate would not meet the rollback rate, and therefore, would not trigger a rollback election.”
With the combination of the $.07215 for the General Fund and the $.0417 for Interest and Sinking Fund, the $.0763323 per $100 assessed valuation equates to a $33.44 raise on a $100,000 home.
The council could have voted to keep the rate the same as last year– just more than $.72, but that would have not included the five percent pay increase for fire and police, but instead given all employees two and a half percent pay hikes.
The new tax rate is the second year in a row for an increase, after three consecutive years where it stayed the same. Two years ago, the rate was about $.705 for the 2017-2018 tax year. That is the same rate it was for both previous years. Five years ago the rate was $.655.
The new rate of $.763 is about $.16 higher than the rate a decade ago. Total assessed property values, meanwhile, went from $4.4 billion to $4.9 billion in 2018.
City officials hope the pay increase will help attract police recruits, especially since the number of current applicants isn’t enough to justify another academy.
“I didn’t want crime to go up. I don’t want our city to be one of those cities that were struggling with crime,” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana said. “I really think we have quality police officers and I want to keep it that way.”
“I think with this pay raise, that’ll put us back in the running for people that are looking for jobs in the metroplex and other areas will also apply here,” Wichita Falls Chief of Police Manuel Borrego said.
That raise also allows the city to contribute seven percent into the Texas Municipal Retirement System instead of the current five percent.
“The starting salary increase, that helps with the hiring of the new. It also helps with retaining the experience we have,” Wichita Falls Police Officers Association President Sgt. John Spragins said.
However, Wichita Falls resident Larry Robinson, whose property was annexed into the city around 2000, said the tax increase shouldn’t come until the city grows the tax base.
“We don’t have the same tax base as these other cities do. And every time they raise the taxes on this, they’re raising the taxes on the citizens and not on the business,” Robinson said. Robinson cited, as an example, Frisco has a fairly sized tax base, due in part to being home to the Dallas Cowboys training camp.
But what has passed has passed and will go into effect October 1st and end September 30, 2020.
Below, you will find links to starting fire and police salaries in Amarillo, Lubbock & Wichita Falls.