But appraisals may negate lower rate
By Jim Bardwell
Two public hearings will be held Thursday by the Gladewater City Council – one regarding the proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 and the other regarding the proposed tax rate for fiscal year 2024.
The council is also expected to vote on both items Thursday after holding a budget workshop later that evening.
At last week’s budget workshop Mayor Scott Owens proudly announced the city’s 2024 tax rate would be about 10-cents lower than the current rate – 0.626978 compared to 0.739089. While that would normally be good news, with this year’s property appraisals soaring in Gregg and Upshur counties – local taxpayers will most likely pay the same – if not more taxes – than this year.
And that money will be needed to fund the proposed $7.8 million budget – which will include major pay raises for police, fire, and public works employees. The raises are needed, according to both the fire and police chiefs and city manager, to keep current employees from jumping ship to neighboring cities that pay better. While Gladewater pays 100-percent of an employee’s insurance, that isn’t enough to retain or attract quality employees. With the new budget, local police are expected to get a raise of around $6,000 annually. Fireman also will be receiving a raise and public works employees base pay will go from $13-14 to $15-$20/hour.
The city hopes to help pay for the raises by renegotiating the city’s insurance. City officials said the current Texas Municipal League insurance is expected to rise 30-percent. During the workshop the Gladewater Mirror asked why the city wasn’t shopping the city’s insurance around for a better rate. The savings would possibly offset most of the payroll increases. Interim city manager Charlie Smith agreed and said the city would seek bids.
One purchase Mayor Owens wanted got shot down at the workshop – that being a $65,000 street sweeper. Owens said it was needed to improve the city’s image.
But councilman Michael Webber disagreed and said he believed the city should spend that money for “better streets” instead of cleaning streets that are in need of repair.
Owens also offered another improvement idea – loaning battery-powered lawn mowers and weed eaters to residents who have overgrown lawns. But that idea was mowed down by councilman Kevin Clark – who asked why the city doesn’t just fine violators. He noted the city was planning to cite residents for not putting their trash containers away promptly after trash pickup. So why not treat both the same.
In other business on Thursday’s agenda:
• The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and take possible action regarding a request for a rear set-back variance at 304 Hull Street.
• The council also is expected to approve an ETCOG interlocal contract for City 9-1-1 Database Maintenance for FY 2024 and approve a blanket permit for First Baptist Church to host an outdoor concert Oct. 21.
• Discuss and take possible action an agreement between the city and Schaumburg & Polk, Inc. for professional services concerning Lake Gladewater Dam Breach Modeling & Analysis.
• Discuss and take possible action on proposals for city’s depository services.
• Discuss and take possible action on a nomination for a person for the Gregg and Upshur Appraisal District Board of Directors
• Consider approval of the Gladewater Economic Development Corporation budget for fiscal year 2024