by A.C. Hall
On Tuesday evening the White Settlement City Council approved the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year. The current rate is .67 per 100, and the council voted 3 – 0 to approve .69 per 100 as the new rate. This is the effective tax rate, meaning the rate that will raise the same amount of property tax for the city as the 2013 rate did.
Average home owners in the city will see an overall annual increase of around ten dollars due to the new tax rate. Since council passed the effective rate, instead of the higher rollback rate, they will not be required to hold two public hearings on the rate. Citizens will still have a chance to sound off on the new rate on Sept. 9 when council holds a public hearing for the budget and tax rate before considering final approval of them.
Mayor Jerry Burns spoke highly of the direction the city is heading, singling out city employees as a big help as the city continues to grow and progress. Other council members agreed, adding their own favorable comments about the city employees.
Acting City Manager Jim Ryan led council through a brief budget work session as they discussed a few outstanding items. The drive up kiosk that would replace the drive through water billing window was discussed. Staff presented a full cost of $36,000 for the kiosk that would accept water bill payments 24 hours a day. Currently there is $25,000 in the budget for this item.
One major change that will need to be made if the kiosk is built is a reversal to the direction traffic flows through the water billing drive through. Currently vehicles pull in from Meadow Park and exit on Hanon. Due to the need to build the kiosk into the wall of city hall, traffic would be reversed if the kiosk is built, with vehicles pulling in from Hanon and exiting onto Meadow Park.
Several spoke in favor of this change, saying it would be much safer to have cars traveling from Hanon onto Meadow Park instead of the way it’s done now.
Council member Gene Hatcher asked how many jobs would be lost if the kiosk was installed. He was told that the water department stays busy, and that no one would have to be let go. Ryan did inform him that this would give them a cushion and would eliminate the need to hire any additional help for that department for some time.
The $25,000 for this item remains in the budget, but a final decision on it won’t be made until later this year. Staff is running a water rate study first, and then will return to council with their recommendation on whether or not the kiosk is needed.
Ryan informed council that per their direction at earlier budget work sessions an engineering firm is working towards gathering information and costs related to drilling new water wells in the city.
The $90,000 council requested be set aside for two new traffic signal lights was addressed. Ryan stated that they had to pull this item out of the street improvement fund as they found out it’s not an approved use of the street improvement money. He suggested that the signals will have to be paid for out of a tax note instead.
“We should be able to find that money,” Ryan said. “We’ll take care of it.”
Council members Danny Anderson and Elzie Clements were both absent from the meeting due to illness.