Council art

The Cleburne City Council held the second of two public hearings on the proposed budget and property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year during their Tuesday meeting. Neither hearing attracted any speakers. 

Council members voted unanimously to approve the budget and tax rate following the hearings. The city’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Cleburne Finance Director Troy Lestina ran through a brief overview of the budget and tax rate before council members voted.

Lestina summed up the budget as “fiscally conservative” with slight increases in the city’s major fund balances and a continued focus on capital improvement project funding, especially in the areas of street repair and maintenance. The budget also funds city building and facility repairs, maintenance, equipment replacement and replacement costs for several city vehicles. 

The budget includes 2.5 percent merit increases for employees but no cost of living adjustment.

The budget also anticipates no new debt issuance by the city in the coming year.

The budget continues the city’s facade and building rehabilitation grants, grants that offer business owners matching funds of up to $5,000 and $25,000, respectively 

Council members approved a property tax rate of .760092 per $100 of property valuation, a rate 1.3 cents lower than the current fiscal year’s rate. 

“The effective tax calculation rate sets the interest and sinking or debt service rate at 0.110391 per $100,” Lestina said. “The remainder of the tax rate of .649701 per $100 will be allocated to operations and maintenance, the general fund.”

Council members also approved a resolution ratifying a property tax revenue increase of $407,547 for the new fiscal year.

“This is from new growth and new value,” Mayor Scott Cain said. “We’re not raising taxes by that amount.”

Such resolutions, Lestina said, are required under Chapter 102 of the state’s Local Government Code.

“It requires that after the adoption of a budget that will raise more property tax revenue than the last year’s budget, that a separate agenda item and vote is required for a city council to ratify that revenue increase.

“The tax rate of .760092 is lowered from the prior fiscal year, but property valuation increased by 3.7 percent, which produces a property tax revenue increase of $407,547.”

Cain called the wording of the state statute confusing at best.

“When the legislature passes new statutes they should put them in plain language that makes sense so folks can understand them and they don’t create confusion,” Cain said. 

Cain reiterated that the council lowered rather than raised tax rates.

Council members also extended the city’s declaration of local disaster through Sept. 22, a declaration that, through several extensions, has remained in effect since March.

“Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement of Open Texas, Cleburne continues to take actions to promote health and safety, and suppress the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” City Manager Steve Polasek said. 

Council members also approved a resolution authorizing an agreement between the city and the Texas Department of Transportation for a grant covering routine airport maintenance. 

The grant, which the city receives annually, comes with a 50/50 match and totals $50,000, Cleburne Municipal Airport Manager Sharlette Wright said.

The grant covers runway and taxiway light bulb and fixture replacement, crack sealing of runways, taxiways and aprons, hangar and building maintenance, self-service fuel island repairs and weather station maintenance, Wright said. 

“All airside maintenance needs come first,” Wright said. “The runway/taxiway lighting, pavements, drainage and weather station are considered airside. The items that directly relate to the travel of aircraft come first before all other items are addressed.”

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