By George Slaughter
Katy officials said a cost of living increase for city employees is needed so Katy can keep talented city employees, and also to be more competitive with other cities as it seeks to hire qualified firefighters and police officers.
The three percent cost of living increase is part of a $28.5 million budget proposal presented Friday morning at City Hall.
City Administrator Byron Hebert, Mayor Chuck Brawner, and Police Chief Bill Hastings all spoke to the need in hiring quality people as opposed to someone just off the street.
The budget calls for the hiring of seven police officers, three firefighters, one fire investigator, among 19 total positions to be filled.
The budget also calls for a new ambulance and four new police vehicles. The second city fire station, at 25420 Bell Patima Dr., is under construction and is expected to open in December.
Medical insurance would have only a minimal increase.
Public safety expenses comprise 53% of the budget and includes four new police vehicles and a new ambulance. General government services comprise 24% of the budget, while streets comprise 12%. Other services and debt service comprise the remainder of the city budget.
The city gets 51% of its revenues from sales taxes, 32% from property taxes, and 4% from franchise taxes. City Administrator Byron Hebert said these three sources comprise 87% of the city’s revenue. The remainder come from service fees, fines, and other sources.
The city has sought more commercial development to increase sales tax revenue, which is expected to increase from $8.8 million in the last budget cycle to $10 million in this budget. The new Amazon distribution center, Buc-ee’s, new stores at Katy Mills Mall, and key tenants at the West 10 Business Park are helping fuel that growth.
Meanwhile, residential construction has grown in Avalon at Spring Green, Cane Island, Enclave at Katy, Falls at Green Meadows, Lilac Bend, Reserves of Katy, and Young Ranch.
The city has lowered property tax rates over the past five years. But following the 2016 Tax Day Flood and Hurricane Harvey, city officials had to dip into the city’s financial reserves to begin and make needed repairs around the city.
The proposed budget is an 8.5 percent increase from the 2017 budget of $26.2 million. The proposed tax rate is $0.48672 per $100, the same as last year. The city has reduced taxes over each of the past five years, but no such plan is in place this year.
The council is expected to announce the public hearings schedule for the budget at its Monday meeting.
The budget, if passed, goes into effect October 1.