Robinson City Council members approved an almost $23 million city budget proposal Thursday night with a boost in spending on streets that falls short of the boost some council members called for.
A 1-cent per $100 of property value tax rate increase for next year will, in part, fund the additional streets spending. In split votes Thursday, council members approved the budget and turned down a 1.5-cent rate increase that would have boosted streets spending further.
The new budget also includes $240,000 in salary increases for city staff, primarily the Robinson Police Department. Streets spending will increase from $130,000 last year to $285,000 next year. City staff recommended the budget with a 1-cent tax increase. Council members proposed the 1.5-cent increase, which would have made another $45,000 available for street work.
“I have a little more faith in our staff to bring a good budget, which I believe they did. They didn’t ask for any more,” Mayor Bert Echterling said. “Our street maintenance budget has been exponentially increasing, so I am happy with the increase.”
The city has budgeted $130,000 for streets the past two years and $50,000 to $78,000 each year from 2013 to 2017.
Council members Steve Janics, Brenton Lane, and Jimmy Rogers voted against the budget. Echterling, Mayor Pro Tem Jeremy Stivener, council member Jim Mastergeorge and council member Jimmy Eubank voted in favor.
After voting on the budget, council members discussed the property tax rate increase. City manager Craig Lemin drafted a proposed budget with a rate of 49.45 per $100 of property value, up from this year’s rate of 48.45 cents, which the council approved. Council members also weighed the option of a 49.95 rate for more street money.
The increase follows three years of rate cuts that started in 2015, when the rate was 50.53 cents.
The extra half-cent increase would have provided an extra $45,000 in revenue, allowing council members to raise the street maintenance spending from $285,000 to $330,000.
“I think that this is commendable for a council to care that much about a budget to be totally split over $45,000 in a $23 million budget,” Lane said. “I love the fact that we can all come together, share our sides and have a healthy debate whether that $45,000 is warranted.”
Lane and Janics voted against the 49.45 tax rate, both agreeing the 49.95 rate would bring a much needed help to city streets. Continuing to neglect streets could lead to the need for more costly repairs, they said.
Rogers said cities never like to see tax rate increases, but he was in support of the additional half cent tax increase in this case. Since the budget based on the lower rate was already approved, he decided to vote with the majority in approving the rate, he said. The city is at least moving in the right direction on street work, Rogers said.
“I think that extra $45,000 would have been a step in where the street maintenance budget needs to be,” Rogers said. “It is already tremendously higher than what it was, but it is still tremendously lower than where it needs to be.”
With the proposed rate increase, taxes on a $200,000 home would increase by $20 a year or a $1.67 a month.