Council proposes same property tax rate, talks utility rate increase

By LYNETTE SOWELL 
Cove Leader-Press 

The Copperas Cove city council took not one, but two, record votes during a special meeting on Tuesday evening for the property tax rate for the next fiscal year. 
In a 6-1 vote, the council proposed a tax rate of 79.7908 cents per $100 valuation, the same as the current rate, unchanged for the past several years. The city’s general fund will have an additional $17,121 if the council adopts the 79.7908. 
According to state law, the council can adopt a lower rate than the 79.7908, but it can’t propose or adopt a higher rate with the record vote in place. 
Prior to the above record vote, councilman Marc Payne had proposed a tax rate of 78 cents per $100, with councilman Jay Manning seconding the motion “so it could be discussed.”
In the discussion, interim city manager Ryan Haverlah said the impact to the budget if a rate of 78 cents was adopted would be that the general fund expenditures would have to be reduced by $133,983. Councilman James Pierce Jr. asked if that would mean layoffs or reduction in city services. 
“There would have to be a decision by council as to what your priorities are for service, so we can tell you, is that a position or a person, or is that a reduction of services?” Haverlah said. “There’s a lot of different scenarios out there that could happen.” 
That record vote was 1-6 and did not pass, with Payne casting the lone vote in favor of proposing the rate. 
Because the 79.7908 cents is higher than the effective tax rate of 78.15 cents, the city must hold two public hearings. The council set the date for the two public hearings on the tax rate, for August 14 and 21.
During that same special meeting on Tuesday, the council crunched the numbers for the utility rates based on the 2018 utility rate study.
Some of that discussion concerned the idea of “cash funding” purchases for water, sewer and solid waste, something which Haverlah said the council had already brought up.
“You said, ‘Let’s not borrow so much in the future, let’s start cash funding certain improvements, capital purchases, like purchase of vehicles, certain equipment, as well as possibly capital investment in infrastructure, buildings as well,” Haverlah said. “I do recommend that city council consider adjusting rates for a positive impact on current and future budgets as those needs come into view.”
Where water usage is concerned, more than half – 55 percent – of the city’s more than 13,632 utility customers use 4,000 gallons or less, said Haverlah. Of those 13,632 accounts, approximately 1,500 receive the 20 percent senior citizen discount. 
More discussion was held about the senior citizen discount, with the council looking at the impact on rates and revenues, should the discount be discontinued altogether. According to the numbers, Haverlah said the base water rate would drop to $11.77 for residential customers, and the volumetric rate for all customers would decrease by 5 percent, to 4.28, with no recommended drop in sewer rates. Solid waste rates would drop by 3 percent, down to $16.55 per month. Residential bills for all those not currently receiving the discount would decrease by an average of about 2 percent. 
Councilman Dan Yancey asked that the council be provided with a breakdown of the volumetric consumption by those who receive the senior citizen discount. 
“If you’ve got seniors that are using 30,000 gallons of water, that’s not the intent of what that discount was. That discount was there for primarily people on fixed incomes that really have a finite amount that they can spend toward utilities, and those are the people you want to help, but to take advantage of a 20 percent discount, it wouldn’t be right.” Yancey said he’ll soon be qualified to receive the discount, and he knows he uses more than 4,000 per month.
It was also asked if the city had asked the Texas Attorney General’s office for an opinion on the legality of the senior discount, but there was nothing to indicate that it had been done at this point.
The council concurred to recommend an increase in the base water rate of 25 cents, from $11.75 to $12, along with increasing the water volumetric rates for both residential and sprinkler meters by 25 cents, from $4.50 to $4.75 per 1,000 gallons used. Solid waste collection rates would bump up by $1, from $17 to $18  per month.

By LYNETTE SOWELL 
Cove Leader-Press 

The Copperas Cove city council took not one, but two, record votes during a special meeting on Tuesday evening for the property tax rate for the next fiscal year. 
In a 6-1 vote, the council proposed a tax rate of 79.7908 cents per $100 valuation, the same as the current rate, unchanged for the past several years. The city’s general fund will have an additional $17,121 if the council adopts the 79.7908. 
According to state law, the council can adopt a lower rate than the 79.7908, but it can’t propose or adopt a higher rate with the record vote in place. 
Prior to the above record vote, councilman Marc Payne had proposed a tax rate of 78 cents per $100, with councilman Jay Manning seconding the motion “so it could be discussed.”
In the discussion, interim city manager Ryan Haverlah said the impact to the budget if a rate of 78 cents was adopted would be that the general fund expenditures would have to be reduced by $133,983. Councilman James Pierce Jr. asked if that would mean layoffs or reduction in city services. 
“There would have to be a decision by council as to what your priorities are for service, so we can tell you, is that a position or a person, or is that a reduction of services?” Haverlah said. “There’s a lot of different scenarios out there that could happen.” 
That record vote was 1-6 and did not pass, with Payne casting the lone vote in favor of proposing the rate. 
Because the 79.7908 cents is higher than the effective tax rate of 78.15 cents, the city must hold two public hearings. The council set the date for the two public hearings on the tax rate, for August 14 and 21.
During that same special meeting on Tuesday, the council crunched the numbers for the utility rates based on the 2018 utility rate study.
Some of that discussion concerned the idea of “cash funding” purchases for water, sewer and solid waste, something which Haverlah said the council had already brought up.
“You said, ‘Let’s not borrow so much in the future, let’s start cash funding certain improvements, capital purchases, like purchase of vehicles, certain equipment, as well as possibly capital investment in infrastructure, buildings as well,” Haverlah said. “I do recommend that city council consider adjusting rates for a positive impact on current and future budgets as those needs come into view.”
Where water usage is concerned, more than half – 55 percent – of the city’s more than 13,632 utility customers use 4,000 gallons or less, said Haverlah. Of those 13,632 accounts, approximately 1,500 receive the 20 percent senior citizen discount. 
More discussion was held about the senior citizen discount, with the council looking at the impact on rates and revenues, should the discount be discontinued altogether. According to the numbers, Haverlah said the base water rate would drop to $11.77 for residential customers, and the volumetric rate for all customers would decrease by 5 percent, to 4.28, with no recommended drop in sewer rates. Solid waste rates would drop by 3 percent, down to $16.55 per month. Residential bills for all those not currently receiving the discount would decrease by an average of about 2 percent. 
Councilman Dan Yancey asked that the council be provided with a breakdown of the volumetric consumption by those who receive the senior citizen discount. 
“If you’ve got seniors that are using 30,000 gallons of water, that’s not the intent of what that discount was. That discount was there for primarily people on fixed incomes that really have a finite amount that they can spend toward utilities, and those are the people you want to help, but to take advantage of a 20 percent discount, it wouldn’t be right.” Yancey said he’ll soon be qualified to receive the discount, and he knows he uses more than 4,000 per month.
It was also asked if the city had asked the Texas Attorney General’s office for an opinion on the legality of the senior discount, but there was nothing to indicate that it had been done at this point.
The council concurred to recommend an increase in the base water rate of 25 cents, from $11.75 to $12, along with increasing the water volumetric rates for both residential and sprinkler meters by 25 cents, from $4.50 to $4.75 per 1,000 gallons used. Solid waste collection rates would bump up by $1, from $17 to $18  per month.

Copperas Cove Leader Press

2210 U.S. 190
Copperas Cove, TX 76522
Phone:(254) 547-4207