Robinson City Council members are considering raising the city’s property tax rate by a penny-and-a-half in an effort to pay for road needs and to offer raises to city employees.

“There are two major issues we are trying to address in this budget,” City Manager Craig Lemin said. “One is salaries, especially for the police department, and the second is street maintenance. We conducted a salary survey this past year and found that while some of our salaries are near the average of other cities in McLennan County, we did have some that are significantly below the average which was leading to employees leaving and others we were trying to hire going to other cities.”

During their meeting Tuesday, council members considered a property tax rate of 49.95 cents per $100 of property value, up from this year’s rate of 48.45 cents. The increase would follow three years of rate cuts that started in 2015, when the rate was 50.53 cents.

Lemin proposed a budget with a 49.45 increase, but council members agreed to discuss the 49.95 increase with extra money going to city street maintenance. The city will likely increase employee salaries by a total of $240,000.

Lemin said if council members approve the 49.95 tax rate, the extra money would strictly go to street maintenance.

If the rate is approved, the city would collect a projected $4.6 million in property taxes, up from almost $4.2 million this year. The increase in revenue from existing properties would be less than 8%. An increase of 8% or more would trigger the possibility of a rollback election giving voters the option to set the rate lower.

For the owner of a house valued at $200,000, the 1.5 cent increase in the rate would add $30 to their annual property tax bill, about $2.50 per month, Lemin said.

Public hearings on the tax rate will give residents an opportunity to weigh in at 6 p.m. Aug. 20 and Aug. 26 at City Hall. The council is scheduled to adopt a tax rate Aug. 29.

Mike Lashombe, a 16-year resident of Robinson, said he was not familiar with the tax increase proposal, but that a $30 per year increase seems manageable.

“I spend over $30 going out to eat with my family. If it will help a neighbor get better streets, I’m for it,” Lashombe said. “There is a lot of sensitivity to raising taxes all over McLennan County, and Robinson is no different. Most people think Robinson’s city taxes are high, but they’re actually lower than many towns in the county.”

The city has been gradually stepping up spending on streets to address a need that has in the past gone unmet, Lemin said. The scope of street maintenance next year will depend on the tax rate, he said.

The city spent $50,000 to $78,000 on street maintenance each year from 2013 to 2017.

“While we are working on multiple projects to reclaim and reconstruct our worst streets, Robinson has traditionally under-funded maintenance,” Lemin said. “Last year and this current year we raised that amount to $130,000. Next year’s budget will increase that amount to $285,000 to $330,000 depending on the final tax rate adopted by the council.”

The city council’s goal is to extend the life of the streets that are still in good condition, which will take more money than the city has traditionally dedicated to streets, Lemin said.

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Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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