WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Even though the city of Wichita Falls’ budget of $233.8 million for the 2023 fiscal year is several million dollars more than last year’s, taxes may still come down.
That’s thanks to more city revenue from property evaluations and increasing sales tax revenue after the slump during the pandemic. About $18 million of the new budget will pay for improvements to public facilities, parks, and services.
“Those are funds that are available above fund balance policy, they’re excess funds that can be used for one-time projects,” city of Wichita Falls Chief Financial Officer and Director of Finance Jessica Williams said.
This year’s proposed budget is about $17 million dollars more than last year’s. But the city of Wichita Falls saw a nice increase in tax revenue especially an unforeseen dividend from sales tax.
“In the general fund, in particular, our sales tax revenue came in about $5 million more than what we had budgeted,” Williams said.
But tax revenue can not forestall rising costs of providing water for residents.
After eight years of maintaining the same water rates, a 9% increase is being proposed.
“The average household in the city right now, in normal months, uses about six units of water. That was the example bill you saw in the presentation, that’s about $5 a month,” Utility Systems Data Administrator Azura Kerr said.
The increase is due to the costs of emergency repairs and maintenance.
The water budget is separate from the general fund, and the actual costs must be paid with fees the users pay for their utilities.
“We have one of the best water treatment plants in the State of Texas. Between the reverse osmosis, the desalination processes, then our permanent reuse, we’re pumping thousands, if not millions, of gallons every day,” Kerr said.
The increase of more than 21% in sales tax revenue from a rebound in retail sales and federal COVID payments is helping the city look at an 8.75% reduction in property tax rates.
“One of the things that we wanted to do was to find a way if possible to lower our tax rate. We knew valuations would increase and we know that increase was the burden on everyone. So when we went into this process with that in mind. We have produced a proposed budget that does recommend lowering the tax rate 6.66 cents,” Williams said.
After a series of public hearings, the vote on the proposed budget will be on September 7.