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Palmview City Council approves nearly $6.7 million budget, property tax rate remains unchanged

The Palmview City Council approved a nearly $6.7 million budget during a special meeting Saturday afternoon.

Administrators prepared a balanced budget, which included conservative revenue projections and a $140,000 contingency, said City Manager Michael Leo. Palmview will keep the current property tax rate.

City of Palmview Logo“It’s better than what we’ve had before,” said Mayor Rick Villarreal, referring to the budget. “It’s not the greatest, but it gives us some breathing room.”

Palmview projects nearly $6.7 million in revenue during the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, according to the budget.

While the property tax rate will remain at 50.01 cents per $100 of taxable assessed valuation, Palmview will collect about $313,000 more than last year thanks to annexations and higher property valuations. Every penny adds $10 to the tax bill for a property valued at $100,000.

The city plans to spend about $5.8 million on day-to-day operating expenses.

A majority of the money will cover pay and benefits for 87 city employees. Palmview matches employee contributions to a retirement plan and covers 90 percent of employee health insurance premiums.

The remaining money, about $870,000, will cover debt payments.

Palmview borrowed $2.8 million in 2018, which allowed the city to start an ambulance service, partner with the Agua Special Utility District on a street paving project and fund infrastructure improvements, according to documents reviewed by the City Council. In 2019, the city borrowed another $1.2 million and refinanced old, high interest debt.

“What we’re left with is a balanced budget,” Leo said.

If the city doesn’t spend the $140,000 contingency, it’ll become part of the fund balance, along with any unanticipated revenue and other unspent parts of the budget. Palmview may use that money during an emergency.

“We’re being really, really conservative,” Leo said, adding that administrators budgeted property tax collections and sales tax allocations based on historical data. “We hope that they’ll come in higher, but at the very least we don’t want them to come in lower. We don’t want to be in that position.”

The City Council suggested two last-minute cuts Saturday.

Villarreal suggested that Palmview ask municipal judges to serve without pay. Sullivan City announced a similar move in April.

Municipal judges, who sign arrest warrants and handle traffic tickets, aren’t required to be attorneys.

Palmview budgeted $15,000 to pay judges.

“Do it for honor,” Villarreal said, adding that he wants judges willing to volunteer their time. “And for the city. To help us save money.”

The City Council also discussed cutting back on travel.

Leo suggested city departments could reduce travel budgets by 10% or 15%.

Villarreal, however, said he wanted the City Council and city employees to avoid any travel unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“I would say if it’s mandatory,” Villarreal said, adding that city employees shouldn’t travel unless they must. “At least for this year or next year.”

Leo agreed.

“Just because we budget for it doesn’t mean we have to spend it,” Leo said.

This article originally appeared in the Friday Sept. 20, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

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