The council voted to recommend a rate of .625178 cents per $100 valuation for the 2014-15 fiscal year, compared to the current rate of .635424 cents.
The newly proposed rate is the “effective tax rate” — the amount which the Upshur County tax assessor-collector’s office projected “in theory” would raise the same amount of revenue as last year, said City Manager Jeff Ellington.
“We probably will get some extra money from new property,” he told the council, which voted 6-0, with member William Hornsby absent, to recommend lowering the rate. In a separate vote, the council approved placing the tax rate’s adoption on a future meeting’s agenda.
Voting were Mayor R.D. (Buck) Cross, and council members Brian Williams, Michael Chevalier, Teathel Hollis, Brenda Jeffery and Jose Cavazos.
The council also discussed the proposed 2014-15 budget, which city Business Manager Gary Smith said Thursday totals $6 million, some $37,000 higher than last year. Ellington said Thursday the council hopes to adopt the budget, which he said includes a 2 1/2 percent across-the-board pay raise for employees, on Aug. 26.
In other business, the council met in closed session to evaluate Ellington, who said it voted 6-0 to declare it “has full confidence in the city manager and his ability to manage the city’s business.”
In other action Tuesday, the council amended its current budget by adding $10,000 to begin a drainage project in the 200 block of East Scott Street near the county jail.
Ellington said the city had procured an easement on the property, owned by Sammy Overstreet. The council had voted last month to seek the easement since it was necessary for the city to legally work on the area.
“It’s a project that really needs to be done,” said City Attorney Mike Martin, who noted the property floods every time hard rain falls, and “it’s starting to eat away at the street.” He said the flooding has been a “problem for many years.”
Martin said it would “be nice” if Overstreet would contribute toward the project cost, “but it’s the responsibility of the city.”
Ellington said the city has opened a culvert to begin work, and that $10,000 is the first phase’s estimated cost. “We don’t know yet” how much the entire project will cost, he added, saying the $10,000 won’t solve the problem, but is needed “to find out how bad it is and where we are.”
In other business Tuesday, the council approved seeking a grant from the Texas Transportation Commission for an automated weather observation system at Fox Stephens Field.
Ellington said the current system at the airport breaks down often, and that the grant would be for 75 percent of the new one’s estimated $150,000 cost. The city’s 25 percent share would be $37,500, and the city’s airport board voted to seek the grant, he noted.
In other action, the council in three separate votes approved three amendments to the current budget.
They included recording auction proceeds for the general fund, civic center fund and enterprise fund; recording $4,000 in insurance proceeds from a damaged hand held water meter reader; and funding construction of a records building.
Ellington said the council had already approved having Gilmer Lumber Company build the records facility.
The council also Tuesday:
• authorized Cross to execute an interlocal contract paying the Kilgore-based East Texas Council of Governments $3,256.40 for ETCOG to perform the city’s 9-1-1 database maintenance.
• authorized Ellington to terminate a postage meter lease with Pitney Bowes and execute such a lease with Mailfinance, a Neopost USA company. Smith said Mailfinance proposed charging $94 monthly while Pitney Bowes proposed $200, and the firms’ equipment is “pretty much” the same.
• and approved Ellington’s suggestion to poll city employees on whether they want to change their AFLAC agent/broker.
A Texarkana man is now the agent, but a local insurance agent wants the business, said Ellington. The city manager said he suggested the poll because employees pay for the coverage.