Copperas Cove city council votes to propose lower tax rate
By LYNETTE SOWELL
It looks as though the property tax rate for the City of Copperas Cove will be dropping, after the city council took a record vote on Tuesday to propose a tax rate of 67.2652 cents per $100 valuation.
The city council heard a presentation from the city’s administration regarding the proposed values last Thursday, and learned the dollar impact of two rates, the “no new revenue” tax rate and the “voter approval” rate.
The no new revenue rate is lower than the voter approval rate, at 63.9296 cents per $100 valuation. Both are lower than the current tax rate of 72.1028 cents per $100 valuation.
The larger of the two rates, the voter approval rate, is the highest rate the council can approve without triggering a special election.
The city’s administration typically determines the two tax rates based on certified property values as submitted by the Coryell Central and Lampasas Central Appraisal Districts. However, as of the presentation last week, Lampasas County could only submit a “best estimate” of property values by the deadline, said City Manager Ryan Haverlah, as that appraisal district was still in the process of going through the property tax protests submitted by owners.
The voter-approval tax rate would grow the city’s general fund balance to more than $11 million in reserves, or nearly $6 million above the ideal fund balance, which is 90 days of operating expenses kept in reserve.
However, Havlerah’s presentation also included reminders of several general fund budget items that have not been included in the upcoming budget. These include $94,463 for the Hill Country Transit District to begin a micro transit service within Copperas Cove, $11,150 in non-city agency funding requests, as well as appraisal district expense adjustments, $5,238 to the Coryell Central Appraisal District and $3,532 to Lampasas Central Appraisal District.
Tuesday’s vote did not make the tax rate final, as there must be a public hearing for that tax rate on Aug. 15, the same date that the council will adopt both the tax rate and the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Haverlah told the council that the voter approval tax rate would cover all of the $681,000 operating deficit in the proposed budget for next fiscal year.
Also, this would help the city provide the additional premium pay that the city council allocated and approved for public safety positions to include police, fire, and dispatch.
The calculated amount for those positions is $5,000 annually for certified Police and Fire Officers and $3,000 for dispatch officers, with a total cost of $481,000.
During the previous week’s workshop, Haverlah told the council that city learned that the American Rescue Plan Act funds the city had earmarked for this premium pay, could no longer be used for that purpose due to Congress proclaiming the “end” of the pandemic back on April 10th.
The voter approval rate increases the city’s revenue and budget by $1.2 million.
Without funding, he said the city had two choices, either move that cost into the general fund, or stop paying the public safety officers that additional amount.
“As I discussed with council last time, our neighboring cities are aggressively adjusting their compensation for public safety positions. The further east we go, the more intense it gets in terms of starting pay, and pay for officers that have tenure with those departments.”
He said it was important that the public safety positions maintain that salary level because the city will be looking at market adjustments next year for them.