MIDLOTHIAN

After residents urged the Midlothian City Council one last time to decrease the tax rate by one cent, the council approved the fiscal year 2018-19 tax rate and budget to maintain the current tax rate at .708244 per $100 valuation.

After a lengthy budget process, which began with the proposal and workshops in July, the council had to decide between investing $370,000 in the Midlothian Fire and Police Departments or giving it to residents as a tax decrease. The new operating budget passed 6-1, while the tax rate passed 5-2.

Place 2 Council Member Mike Rodgers voted against just the tax rate, while Place 5 Council Member Justin Coffman voted against both items.

“I don’t want a ‘no’ vote to be viewed as anti-police,” Coffman expressed. “We can’t find $370,000 somewhere else other than police? Is police really the only thing we can consider cutting in order to lower it?”

City Manager Chris Dick explained while budget cuts were not exclusive to the police department, personnel is the most considerable expense and cuts would have to be spread out across multiple other departments to compensate.

Place 6 Council Member Art Pierard said he struggled initially with the budget and tax rate, but after further discussion with city staff, felt reassured enough to vote for both.

“After looking at this from 18 different angles, the decision for me has boiled down to this: Do I want that dollar difference to go back to everybody anywhere from $75 to $100, or do I want it to go toward protection for everybody in town?” Pierard explained.

According to the city council agenda, the current tax rate will raise total property tax revenue by an additional $4,793,562 — a 22.42 percent increase from the previous year’s budget. Pierard recommended revisiting the issue in January to see if there’s a possibility of decreasing the tax rate for the next fiscal year.

$70,000 RESIDENTIAL HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION

The council also unanimously approved a $70,000 residential homestead exemption and tax ceiling for residents 65 years or older. The ordinance puts a limit on the taxes that may be imposed on senior residents older than 65.

Dick explained that while senior resident’s property taxes could go down, the ceiling would ensure that they don’t increase beyond the ceiling limit.

“This is a big deal,” Coffman said. “It’s a big win for our residents.”

Finance Director Ann Honza estimated that the tax ceiling would help approximately 1,500 residences in Midlothian.

“Is there that many of us?” Place 1 Council Member Wayne Sibley remarked.

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David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX

469-517-1456