Mid-Valley cities mull tax rates

Budget

EDCOUCH — As the end of the fiscal year ends, cities throughout the Mid-Valley and Delta regions have begun to mull their property tax levies ahead of the Sept. 30 state-mandated adoption deadline.

In Edcouch, officials from the Hidalgo County Tax Assessor’s office recommended a slight decrease for next year’s property taxes — a little more than three-hundredths of a cent per $100 valuation.

In a presentation delivered to Edcouch officials Aug. 15, Eva Mireles, chief of operations for the county’s tax office, said county officials had calculated that an effective tax rate of 0.9654 cents per $100 dollar valuation would generate the same amount of revenue for the city as last year’s tax collections.

That figure represents a slight drop from last year’s tax rate of 0.9687 cents per $100 valuation.

Mireles explained that if the city council proposed last year’s higher tax rate, it would have to hold two hearings to seek the public’s input before adopting that rate. However, if the city proposed the newly calculated lower effective tax rate, officials could proceed to adopt the rate next month without holding hearings.

She urged the council to consider proposing last year’s rate in order to give the city the flexibility of generating extra revenue. “We always advise that if you’re going propose, propose something that you want to go at because you never adopt something higher than that,” Mireles said.

When asked how much revenue the higher rate would generate, Mireles said approximately $4,000. Ultimately, the council unanimously chose to propose the lower 0.9654 cent tax rate.

“The message we’re sending to the people is, officially, we brought down the taxes,” Councilman Danny Guzman said.

The council is expected to adopt the proposed rate at a Sept. 19 meeting.

Taxpayers in Donna will also see lower taxes this year. In a council meeting held last Tuesday, the council unanimously approved proposing a tax rate one cent lower per $100 valuation. Mayor Rick Morales was not present at the meeting.

If approved, the tax rate in Donna would go down from 0.798855 cents to 0.788855 cents per $100 valuation, Donna City Manager Carlos Yerena explained.

“Basically, we’re tightening our belts and we’re doing everything we can in-house,” Yerena said after the meeting.

“It’s a penny decrease, so I think it’s a great deal for us because it says to the citizens that we’re managing our monies diligently and that we’re efficient in the way we work,” he said, adding that recent growth in the city has allowed the city to propose the lower tax rate.

In Weslaco, taxpayers will see a 3 cent increase in their taxes after the passage of a $10 million drainage improvement bond election in May.

With that debt taken into account, city officials proposed levying a tax rate of 0.6967 cents per $100 valuation. The city will hold two hearings — on Sept. 3 and Sept. 10 — during which the public can provide input on the proposed rate.

The city will meet again on Sept. 17 to formally adopt next year’s tax rate, city records show.

And finally, in Mercedes, the commission last week discussed — but ultimately held off on proposing a tax rate, pending the completion of its fiscal budget workshops.

Mercedes Finance Director Nereida Perez recommended the commission propose a tax rate of 0.7450 cents per $100 valuation — the same tax rate as last year.

Similar to the city of Edcouch, last year’s tax rate in Mercedes is slightly higher than the effective tax rate calculated by county officials for this year, and proposing the same tax rate would require the city to hold two public hearings, Perez explained.

Place 2 Commissioner Leonel Benavides asked how the commission could adequately consider a tax rate if the city still hasn’t completed its budget planning process for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Mayor Henry Hinojosa agreed. “It’s a lot to digest,” Hinojosa said.

After a few more minutes of discussion, the Mercedes commission voted to table the proposal until after the budgeting process. However, time is a factor. State law requires that changes in the proposed tax rates be published in a local newspaper, and that both public hearings and the meeting to adopt the rate be held on a certain timetable — all by Sept. 30.

To that end, the commission met with department heads and city staff held several budget workshops on an accelerated timeline last week in order to finalize the city’s financial plans for the upcoming year.

The commission was expected to vote on the proposed tax rate during a noon meeting Tuesday.