No Property Tax Rate Increase, No 'Transportation Fee' in New City Budget

A $2.7 billion city budget, an increase of about 4% from the current year, will not include an increase in the property tax rate, nor will it include a 'transportation fee' which had been batted around at City Hall, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"An additional 40 new police officer positions," City Manager Sheryl Sculley said.  "In the Fire Department we are recommending 43 additional fire service personnel."

Mayor Nirenberg said the new budget is presented through an 'equity lens,' which makes up for decades of neglect of mainly minority and low income neighborhoods.  For example, much of the street improvement investments will be in areas which have the most chronic street problems, instead of the previous policy of spreading the funding equally among the ten City Council departments.

Sculley says street and transportation improvements, as demanded by citizens who spoke out in surveys and at public meetings, will be the major portion, along with public safety, in the new budget.

Sculley says one goal of the city is to increase the 'starting wage.'  The entry level wage for people joining the city staff at the bottom of the skill ladder will go from a current $13.75 to $14.25 an hour.

"With a plan to go to $15 per hour for the entry level employees by 2019," she said.

The budget will also include a 2% to 4% wage increase for the city's civilian employees, as well as an expansion of the city policy of providing maternity leave for men and women, college course credit, and other benefits.

Sculley says the bottom line for most residents is the fact that the tax rate, which is the amount per $100 valuation, that homeowners will pay, is remaining the same

."It maintains the City's current property tax rate, and increases funding to streets, sidewalks, public safety, and our neighborhoods," Sculley said.

The budget will now go through a series of public hearings.  It is set to take effect October 1.

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