Wichita Falls Candidates Talk City Budget

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Wichita Falls city staff has notified city councilors of cuts – possibly including employees – for the next budget. Revenue is down — staff cuts and possible fee hikes could be options.

“The solution is tough because without growth, you really have to start cutting back,” councilor and mayoral candidate, Stephen Santellana, said. “You can only do so much with so much money.”

District One Councilor Stephen Santellana is running to become the next mayor of Wichita Falls in November.

“There’s not this pot of magic money, so what you have to do is you’re going to have to expand your city somehow and your tax base and that’s where your real tax dollars are going to come from,” Santellana said. “And that’s going to help all of the issues that we’re having right now.”

Jesse Brown is running for the District Four Councilor position and said other options should be explored before looking at tax hikes.

“I’m not saying that we need an increase, but we need to look at those areas and determine…. if we need to make some cuts elsewhere in the budget,” Brown said.

He said tax increases should not be the first thing city leaders look toward. 

“Over the years, tax increases are just a part of life and that’s the citizens investment in the city. In the future, there will have to be tax increases, but if we can avoid those right now, that’s what we are going to do,” Brown said.

Santellana said raising the local sales tax is not an option.

The state sales tax is at 6.25 percent. Cities are allowed up to two percent over that and Wichita Falls is at 8.25 percent.

Brown said there are things that can be done to increase tax revenue, besides raising the taxes.

“If we can bring in new businesses and grow our economic development and bring more people into this city and everyone will spend more and we keep them here,” Brown said.

Brown and Santellana said one thing that could be hampering revenue growth is Wichita Falls’ proximity to the metroplex. Many shoppers take their dollars, and the sales taxes, there.

Santellana also mentioned the stagnant population growth and the oil industry taking a hit as additional reasons for the revenue shortfall.

“Economies go up and down and Wichita Falls is not immune to that,” Santellana said. “But I think in your 2017-2018 — the next two to four years I think we are going to see a huge swing.”

But Santellana said he is hopeful the last three months for sales tax revenue will improve. Current District Four Councilor, Tim Ingle, said when revenues do not come in like expected, the city either has to cut costs or increase revenue with tax or rate increases. He also wants to ensure that critical functions and jobs with the city remain well staffed. 

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