The city of Huntsville will add additional firefighters and another police officer with a $74.2 million budget that is expected to be finalized September 17. The budget will be funded in part by a 1 cent property tax increase.
City officials must now clear one final vote to finalize the budget with a proposed tax rate of 31.48 cents per $100 valuation. The proposed rate is an 8% reduction from the current tax rate, but a jump from the effective rate of 30.48 cents.
That rate received another approval Tuesday after city officials gave the OK for six decision packages, totaling $4.7 million in expenses, of which $3.85 million is funded with unallocated reserves.
However, much of the debate on Tuesday was surrounding a package that added or reclassified 15 full-time positions with a one-cent tax hike.
“I spent last year fighting to get our police officers and firefighters to market compensation, but under the current circumstances I can’t vote for this package if it contains a property tax increase,” said councilmember Ronald Allen. “In my opinion, we can find a way to fund this measure without a property tax increase … we need to send the city manager and our finance director back to the drawing board to make this work without increasing taxes.”
The employee decision package added 1-4 firefighters (pending approval of a grant), a new police officer, an assistant street superintendent, two new facilities maintenance positions and a records supervisor at the police department. The measure will also move a part time permit clerk to full time, reclassify fire captains to create a pay grade rank and create a new events coordinator position for the Wynne Home offset by staff reduction at the visitor’s center.
Also included in the decisions packets were:
• an allocation for nearly $1.03 million for water and wastewater improvements;
• allocations of $150,000 for improvements at Kate Barr Ross Park;
• an allocation of $100,000 for improvements to the MLK Center building;
• an allocation of $200,000 for taxiway improvements at the Bruce Brothers Huntsville Regional Airport, with 90% of the project cost being funded through the Texas Department of Transportation;
• an allocation of $175,000 for the Huntsville Horizon Comprehensive Plan, which is used by city officials for land use and other planning-related decisions.
• an allocation of $50,000 for sidewalk repair and improvements;
• allocations totaling $330,486 for a 2.5% merit pay increase and the funding of the city’s vacation buyback policy.
The budget also contained several one-time expenditures, which includes:
• $50,000 for rating agency fees related to debt issuance for Proposition 2 bond project;
• $25,000 for a new Christmas tree;
• $75,000 for new lights in Downtown Huntsville;
• $205,000 for 22 self contained breathing apparatuses for the fire department;
• $2 million in design work for city hall and the service center.
City officials have touted that the proposed tax rate is not only the lowest the city has
considered since at least the year 2000, but it is also the lowest of our peer cities with similar
“The city is growing and we have a lot of great things going in this budget, especially with the propositions,” councilmember Joe Rodriquez said. I’m not in favor of tax increases unless they can be justified, and this city didn’t raise taxes from 2013 until 2018, when it was raised half a cent.”