FREEPORT — Freeport City Council plans to keep the current property tax rate and invest more in infrastructure in the upcoming fiscal year, something residents expressed a desire for during a public hearing on the proposed budget.
The first public hearing for Freeport’s proposed property tax rate and budget for fiscal year 2019-20 was hosted Sept. 3, according to the agenda.
City council members opened the floor for citizens comment on the proposed budget and proposed tax rate of 62.8 cents per $100 of appraised property value at the hearing. Both had been presented in previous meetings in August, which was later made available on the city website.
The proposed property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year is the same as the current tax rate. This rate includes a maintenance and operations rate of 0.518 cents per $100 of appraised property value and an interest and sinking rate of 0.11 cents, City Manager Tim Kelty said.
Although the rate will remain the same, citizens can expect to see an increase in their taxes by about 1.6 percent due to increased property values in the area, Kelty said.
The proposed budget was constructed using the existing tax rate and approximately totals $25 million. About $3.03 million is set to be invested in infrastructure, City Finance Director Stephanie Russell said.
Before the public hearings, citizens were invited to make any general comments to the council. A comment was made concerning the budget needing to include more infrastructure investment by Concerned Citizens of Freeport spokesman Larry Fansher.
“We would like to see a greater percentage of the budget dedicated to infrastructure improvement projects,” Fansher said. “We believe adequate and responsible funding of these projects will be better for the future of Freeport.”
The budgeted amount for infrastructure has increased significantly since last year and the city has hopes to invest more toward infrastructure improvements in the future, Kelty said.
“We are just making a dent, but it is a pretty big dent,” Kelty said.
Of the money set to go toward infrastructure, $1.23 million will go toward the improvement of streets and $1.5 million will be invested into water and sewer projects, Russell said.
It will take a lot of work over the next year to continue with infrastructure improvements, Kelty said.
“We did set ourselves up with this budget to be able to have the opportunity to sell bonds in the upcoming years to also be able to invest in infrastructure,” Russell said.
Council members will host a final public hearing on the property tax rate on Sept. 9. The tax rate is set to be adopted and the proposed budget ratified Sept. 16 at the next regularly scheduled meeting.