City of Tyler drops tax rate tenth of a cent

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 1:06pm

As part of the proposed 2012-13 budget that was presented by City Manager Mark McDaniel at the City Council meeting on Aug. 8, Tyler is planning to decrease its property tax rate by $.0012, to 20.77 cents per $100 valuation, while continuing to set the standard for performance excellence in local government.

“Tyler has a long history of performance excellence that was built upon the foundation of the Blueprint launched in 1996,” said McDaniel. “Since then, we have carried that legacy forward and the outcomes speak for themselves.”

Tyler is one of the few cities in the country with a AAA bond rating; paying cash for most capital improvement projects, with a property tax rate that is the lowest in Texas among cities with greater than 16,000 citizens. Tyler also has fewer employees than in the mid 1980’s – despite a 30 percent growth in population.

“In the mid 80’s the City had 12 employees for every 1,000 citizens and a tax rate of 58 cents,” added McDaniel. “Today that ratio is 8 employees to 1,000 citizens with a tax rate of 20.77 cents, all without decreasing service levels. We have been able to enhance our productivity through programs that engage our employees to do more with less, including Business Planning, Called to SERVE Internal Communications, City University and our incredibly successful Lean Sigma Program.”

The City’s Lean Sigma program was launched in 2009 and has saved the City more than $2.4 million. To date, 45 Lean Sigma projects have been completed by City employees trained in the methodology.

“Lean Sigma helps identify the waste and variation that occurs in everyday processes,” said Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass. “The program provides a structured approach for improving efficiency – which saves both time and money.”

In 1994 Tyler’s tax rate was 53 cents. In the last 16 years, it has decreased by more than 60 percent to the proposed rate of 20.77 cents.

In addition to lowering the tax rate to the effective rate, the City is not planning for any fee adjustments in the General Fund, which is primarily funded by sales and property tax revenue. More than 67 percent of expenditures from this fund are dedicated to Police and Fire services. Street maintenance, engineering, parks, and library are also funded through General Fund revenues.

In the Utility Fund, a two percent rate increase for water service and seven percent rate increase for sewer service is programmed – all driven by needed capital improvement projects. This increase will pay for more than $6 million in plant and sewer collection improvements in the coming year, and beyond, on a pay-as-you-go basis.

“Even with the proposed increase in water and sewer services, Tyler still has one of the lower rates in the State of Texas for a city our size,” said Managing Director of Water Utilities Greg Morgan. “Tyler’s new combined rate would be $59.59, while cities of comparable size have rates as high as $91.56.”

No increase in Solid Waste fees is proposed.

“I am very pleased that we were able to lower our current property tax rate,” commented Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass. “Most people know that our tax rate is one of the lowest in the State; however, many of our citizens don’t realize HOW much lower it is. In some cases it is more than three times lower than cities of comparable size.”

For example, according to information from the Texas Municipal League, the City of Waco has a tax rate of 78.6 cents per $100 valuation; Denton is 68.9 cents, and Killeen is at 74.2 cents – compared to Tyler’s proposed rate of 20.77 cents.

Efforts to retain the City’s trained workforce include the potential for a productivity increase from zero to three percent for civilians, three percent for sworn personnel, and implementation of the third and final phase of pay plan study adjustments initiated over several years. These recommendations would be implemented beginning in October 2012.

It is anticipated that City employees will not receive pay adjustments in the current fiscal year because anticipated growth of sales tax revenue remains short of the benchmark of three percent budgeted.

With the new budget, employees may also see up to a $123 per month increase in health insurance premiums in January for the “buy-up” option and an $18 increase for dental coverage. Additionally, the City is proposing to cap its contribution for over-65 Medicare-eligible retirees who elect to retain supplemental health and drug card benefits.

Opportunities for public input on the budget are available by attending one of two meetings at Tyler City Hall, 212 N. Bonner Ave. on the following dates:

· Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 9 a.m.

· Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 9 a.m.

Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for the Sept. 12 meeting that is held at 9 a.m. at Tyler City Hall.

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