Daily Record file photo
City Council adopts tax rate to include more public safety funding
San Marcos City Councilmembers have approved the $0.6030 tax rate to allow room within the budget for four San Marcos Fire Department personnel and two San Marcos Police Department officers.
The tax rate represents a 10.5% increase from the No-New-Revenue rate and will generate approximately $42.4 million in city revenue, according to City of San Marcos Director of Finance Jonathan Locke.
In an Aug. 18 meeting, council chose to set the maximum tax rate for fiscal year 2023 equal to the city’s current tax rate of 60.3 cents. The decision to set the tax rate to 60.3 cents is one-cent more than the originally proposed 59.3-cent tax rate in the 2023 proposed budget and is to be specifically used for the addition of public safety personnel.
There was no clear consensus on whether to make this inclusion when council held a second reading of the proposed 1-cent tax increase during Tuesday's regular meeting.
Councilmember Jude Prather said he would support the 1-cent tax increase, calling public safety “one of the core functions of good government.”
Councilmember Shane Scott reiterated Prather's sentiments, adding that “As our community grows, our businesses [grow] and more money comes in, allowing [us] to pull from that diversity to be able to help the poor more [and] have more programs. But if they don’t feel safe, it’s not going to happen.”
Councilmembers Alyssa Garza and Maxfield Baker opposed the proposal, citing a need for more community input.
“I just don't think throwing money at personnel without simultaneously working alongside our neighbors to understand the issues and hear their input is responsible,” Garza said.
“I hope my colleagues [are] not just doing this to vote against us just because [of] a couple of additional officers,” said Councilmember Mark Gleason, adding, “I'll tell you, when you call them and it takes an extra minute or two [for them] to get there, I don't want that on my conscience. I don't.”
Fire Chief Les Stephens, who also attended the meeting, criticized the council for not taking action sooner to address the deficits in public safety.
“I was hired here 13 years ago to build a fire department,” Stephens said. “I came here as a firefighter who believed that if the fire chief can make a compelling case to the city leaders, they would be given the resources they need to protect [citizens]... I'm here 13 years later to say that's not how it works.
“Let me share this with you,” he added. “During our staff meeting last Tuesday, you were completely out of fire apparatus. Zero, not one. That's unacceptable.”
Councilmember Saul Gonzales, who was initially against the proposal, decided at the last minute to support it after listening to the renewed pleas of public safety officials and comments from his colleagues. The vote passed 5-2.
The $0.6030 tax rate translates to approximately a yearly increase of $24 in city property taxes, or $2 a month, for the average home value.
To watch the full meeting, visit https://www.sanmarcostx.gov/421/City-Council-Videos-Archives.