City budget doesn’t raise taxes

Jun. 12, 2014 @ 06:10 PM

The Henderson City Council adopted a 2014-2015 budget ordinance Wednesday night that avoids a tax increase, defunds the downtown manager position and instead diverts money to the downtown development commission.

Councilman Garry Daeke proposed using money the city would have spent on the planning director position, which has been vacant since April when former director Erris Dunston resigned.

At the city’s budget hearing on Monday, several residents voiced concerns about the $53,200 position being cut.

Daeke said the additional funding for the commission, which has only $10,000 budgeted, could be used for sign and facade grants available to downtown businesses.

He said the city already has a process and format for businesses to apply for the grants that would offer tangible appearance changes to downtown.

“I just think we have to look at things out of the box and a little differently, and that’s what I tried to do when I wrote this plan,” he said.

The council supported Daeke’s proposal.

“My concern was that we maintain some public image of the city doing something in economic development,” said Councilman Jim Kearney.

Councilwoman Sara Coffey said she was worried about the city losing its Main Street designation as a result of not having a full-time employee, especially in light of construction at McGregor Hall.

“The performing arts center is not going to be ready for awhile anyway,” she said, adding that the council could revisit the designation issue in the future.

City Manager Ray Griffin said Daeke’s plan also includes collaborating with the city’s redevelopment commission.

“A redevelopment commission can do things that a city council and regular 501(c)3 can’t do when it comes to property acquisition and property disposal and working with certain types of things so it’s a natural partner,” Griffin said. “I think it adds another leg to the stool for downtown economic development.”

Daeke also proposed retaining Pam Hester, whose current downtown manager position is being defunded, as the zoning technician — which is soon to be vacant.

“I’m honestly thrilled they are putting money into sign and facade grants,” said Hester, who is agreeable to the position change.

The adopted budget ordinance includes $15.2 million for the general operating fund, which does not have any contingency money.

The budget does not include an increase in the tax rate or sanitation fee.

There is a 5 percent increase in the water rate, translating into roughly 69 cents more each month and $8.28 more each year based on usage of nearly 6,000 gallons per month.

The sewer rate increase is 3 percent, which would cost an additional $1.65 per month and $19.80 per year based on nearly 6,000 gallons per month.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.