TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the Tyler City Council adopted the FY 2023 budget. The theme, “Tyler Transformed,” outlines the City of Tyler’s commitment to maintaining quality services as the community grows, while enacting meaningful change to better the city’s workforce and business practices.
“This budget continues our tradition of responsible government spending, while accounting for our residents’ needs: smooth roadways, improved traffic flow, expanded drainage systems, upgraded water and sewer systems, and state-of-the-art facilities,” said Tyler Mayor Don Warren. “It also reflects our commitment to growth and change in how we do business.”
The fiscal year 2023 budget is $228.1 million, and $26.3 million will be spent on capital projects paid for in cash by the Half-Cent Sales Tax fund.
The Half-Cent Sales Tax has been vital to building new roads and facilities, improving parks, investing in drainage and rebuilding City streets. This budget, called the Capital Improvement budget, will be adopted at a later date.
General Fund Highlights
Property values have increased by 18.73%, or $40,928, for the average home in the city. To put this in perspective, the average home value in Tyler was a little more than $218,000. Today the average home is $260,000. Valuations vary based on individual properties and are determined by formulas provided by the State of Texas.
This budget includes a new, lower tax rate of $0.261850. The City of Tyler remains the lowest tax rate of any city in Smith County and the lowest among Texas cities with populations greater than 15,000. The taxable values in Tyler for FY 2023 will bring in about $26.8 million in property taxes, a $2 million increase from last year to be allocated for expanding public safety services.
“As Tyler grows, public safety services must grow,” said Mayor Don Warren.
Police and Fire funding account for the largest chunks of general fund spending in FY 2023, with $34 million directed to the Tyler Police Department and $23 million toward Tyler Fire Department. In 2021, the Fire Department received a Class 1 rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). The ISO ratings assess the readiness of local fire departments by classifying a community’s ability to suppress a fire and puts Tyler Fire in the top two percent of all rated fire departments in Texas and the top one percent of about 46,000 communities in the US This improved score led to a reduction in insurance premiums for both residents and businesses within the city. To maintain this benefit, the city will fund two new firefighters and two new fire engines for $1.6 million.
It will also provide $2.6 million over five years to equip all police vehicles with new in-car technology systems and provide every police officer with new body-worn technology, including updated body cameras and tasers.
“Our officers continue to set the standard for transparency in community policing,” said City Manager Edward Broussard. “TPD administration has developed a creative program to fund and replace this essential technology for our officers on the street,”
To transform blighted areas, the City has committed $200,000 to begin removing substandard structures and another $100,000 for tree removal related to recent storm events.
“Derelict buildings bring down property values and create public health and safety issues,” Mayor Warren said. “This is the first step of a long-term commitment to battling blight in our community.”
This budget also continues the city’s commitment to quality streets by allocating two cents of the tax rate, $1.8 million, to seal coat 25 miles of city streets. This includes hitting the pavement again this year to remove, chip, chisel and level Tyler’s historic brick streets.
In addition, the city has budgeted $16.1 million out of the half-cent fund for upcoming street reconstruction projects and phase three of the Traffic Signalization Modernization Project.
“Technology evolves rapidly,” Warren said. “Our plan is phased in over many years so that as the technology changes, we can change without a high price tag to our residents.”
The budget includes almost $1 million to bring historically underpaid positions up to fair market. The city also plans to allocate a 5% pay increase for police officers and firefighters, who make up 43% of the workforce. Non-civil service employees will be eligible for up to a 5% merit increase based on their individual performance. The total estimated cost will be $3.6 million.
“We have the best team of public servants in the state,” Broussard said. “We must be mindful of market rates and the effect of 9% inflation to keep quality employees.”
Overall, the city has maintained roughly the same number of employees since the mid-1980s, while the physical size of the city and population has almost doubled. These investments are possible through prior year budget savings and a 13% increase in prior year sales tax.
Last year, the city broke ground on Tyler’s new WT Brookshire Conference Center at the Rose Complex. This year, the city will begin work on the historic Mayfair and finish this state-of-the-art facility. In addition to these updates, the city will upgrade some features of the Rose Garden facility.
“We’ve been fortunate to see Hotel Occupancy Tax rebound,” Warren said. “We’re now in the position to capitalize on the rapidly increasing demand for conference travel in our area.”
Enterprise Fund Highlights
The way Tyler Water Utilities (TWU) charges customers for water will change. TWU will move from a declining rate structure (where water and sewer service becomes cheaper the more you use) to a uniform volumetric rate structure over the next five years that will promote water conservation. TWU will also no longer subsidize the first 2,000 gallons of water usage on the bills. Customers will be charged for the total amount of water they use.
The City of Tyler will continue to have a utility rate below average for a city in the state of Texas.
Since 2016, the city has invested more than $34 million in cash in water and sewer systems, with multiple improvements made to the water treatment plants, water lines, sewer lines and manholes. The city plans to spend $24.4 million in cash and bond funds on water and wastewater projects in the coming year.
However, a regulatory compliance fee increase of $5.08 is necessary to service the debt on the rehabilitation of Tyler’s sanitary sewer system. In 2017, the City of Tyler signed a consent decree with the federal government that mandates $250 million in wastewater system improvements that must be implemented by April 2027.
Residential solid waste fees will also increase by $1.28 for twice-weekly collection. Like water utilities, trash pickup is an enterprise fund that must generate its operating revenue through the services it provides. In addition to trash pickup, residents receive code enforcement on-demand and community beautification programs, including graffiti removal, park cleanups, roadside trash pickup and more through this fee.
Finally, stormwater collection fees will increase by 1% to reflect costs of maintenance to the system. With these changes and without the above-mentioned subsidy, the average water bill will increase by $20 per month.
“There is never an easy time to do this,” Broussard said. “These rates are needed to maintain the quality of these services and sustain the system in the long term.”
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