Following a long and testy meeting Thursday afternoon, the likely bottom line for Denton taxpayers is this: a $222 million bond election in November and a slightly higher property tax bill in December.
The Denton City Council spent four hours combing over the bond committee’s recommendations for public safety, road, parkland and beautification projects. Then they turned their attention to the 2019-20 budget, which includes a proposed tax rate of 60.545 cents per $100 valuation.
Mayor Chris Watts issued a plea that the council keep their comments short to keep from adding to a string of meetings that have lasted longer than a typical workday.
“I don’t want to be getting out of here at 9 p.m.,” Watts said.
Within the hour, though, he and council member Deb Armintor sparred over whether her questions about the parks budget were an attempt to micromanage the department’s maintenance budget.
And the meeting ended well after 8 p.m.
November bond election
Denton voters should look for four propositions on the ballot in November, if the City Council calls the election as expected.
A citizens committee deliberated the bond package through most of the summer and voted on their formal recommendation last week. Council members tweaked that final recommendation, swapping out one public safety project for another and splitting three propositions into four.
The largest proposition will be Proposition 2, which would allocate $154 million to road projects. Nearly half of that would rebuild city streets, focusing on neighborhoods where the streets have completely failed and need to be reconstructed. Additional funds would pay for lighting on University Drive, sidewalks near schools, and three big road projects: Hickory Creek Road and Ryan Road on the south side and Bonnie Brae Street on the west side.
The next largest proposition will be Proposition 1, which would allocate $61.9 million to renovate the police department and build a new police substation and a new indoor firing range. The bond committee included Fire Station No. 8 on the proposition list, but the City Council decided to pay for the project with certificates of obligation instead.
The financing move means the fire station construction would likely begin sooner.
The council decided to create two separate propositions for items that the citizens committee had combined. Proposition 3 would allocate $5 million for the city to purchase open space for parklands. Proposition 4 would allocate $619,000 for public art, or 1% of Proposition 1.
The City Council will have to amend its public art policy to authorize Proposition 4, since the current policy requires the city to allocate 2% to 4% of spending on public buildings for public art.
The city will hold a public hearing on the proposed bond election during the City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 6.
Proposed property tax rate
City Manager Todd Hileman unveiled the $1.2 billion proposed budget for 2019-20 with a property tax rate of 60.545 cents per $100 valuation. While the proposed tax rate is lower than this year’s tax rate of 62.0477 cents per $100 valuation, it is also higher than the effective rate of 59.0454 cents per $100 valuation.
The effective rate is a complicated calculation required by state law that boosts transparency with taxpayers: It is meant to show the rate the city would charge to collect the same amount of taxes on the same property from one year to the next.
Denton’s property tax roll jumped 11.5% this year, with more than two-thirds of that increase coming from an increase in values on existing properties.
Last year, the average house value was $233,241. This year, the average value rose to $248,909.
In other words, most Denton homeowners can expect to pay more property taxes this year, even though the city’s tax rate will drop.
Last year, that average homeowner paid about $1,447 in city property taxes, not counting any exemptions. This year, the average homeowner will likely pay $1,507, or about $60 more in city taxes.
The council’s budget talks have just begun, and will continue through August and most of September.
The increased tax revenue is expected to pay for major initiatives to address homelessness in the city, along with key public safety projects and a pay raise for most city employees.
The city manager did not propose an increase in rates for water, wastewater and garbage service. The City Council has delayed a decision on a possible increase in electric rates.