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Willow Park

New tax rate among state's biggest decreases

New budget passed


In a world where prices are going up by the minute, it seems, property owners in Willow Park will now be able a thing or two that they might have previously put back on the rack. Heck, with the tax break they're receiving they can even buy one for a friend.

The city council, at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 22, approved a tax decrease of more than 26% from last year. The new tax rate is 40 cents per $100, a decrease of more than 14 cents from 54.

It is also the second straight year the city has seen a property tax cut, having been 57 cents two years ago.

The new tax, along with the new budget for fiscal year 2023-24, will go into effect on Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2024.

"We're very excited to pass savings on to citizens of Willow Park," Place 1 Council Member Eric Contreras said. "Every dollar counts in a family budget."

The lower tax is largely the result of the Willow Park Fire Department being annexed by Parker County Emergency Services District 1 through a vote of residents last November.

As the potential annexation was being discussed, Willow Park City Manager Bryan Grimes explained to residents that since the city sales tax would no longer have to go mostly to funding the fire department, they could reap the benefits. Along with a lower tax rate, the city now has funds for other things such as roads, etc.

"Obviously, a 26% reduction, 14 cents overall, is significant to taxpayers," Grimes said. "We're very fortunate to be living in a community that's growing and supports local business."

New Budget

The council also approved the budget for the new fiscal year of just over $4.2 million. It's an increase of just over $251,000 from the previous fiscal year.

The budget includes a projected property tax of just over $1.9 million and a projected sales tax of $2.25 million.

Grimes noted the new budget and the freedom of not having the sales tax support the fire department allowed for the creation of a parks department. Other plusses include funds for street repairs, putting money back for debt service and putting money in reserve.

"This is a budget staff feels confident about and is comfortable with and we feel will serve us well moving forward in the next year," Grimes said.

Wastewater rate study

The council voted to accept a water/wastewater rate study from NewGen Strategies, which city officials had requested several months ago. Willow Park has not increased either rate since 2017. 

Assistant City Manager Bill Funderburk noted the city has been transferring money from the water account to the wastewater fund to offset a deficit. 

Due to rising costs in the water and wastewater systems, and construction of a must needed wastewater plant, NewGen Chief Financial Officer Chris Ekrut said a three-year model was requested to make both funds financially healthy. 

"We need some sizable wastewater (fund) increases going forward," Ekrut said.

In the study, it was recommended the city address:

*Revenue sufficiency - Revenues must match or exceed expenses.

*Reserves - Must plan for a rainy day.

*Reinvestment - Repair, replace, and reinvest in infrastructure.

Ekrut said the cost to the city to create a balance will be approximately $35.4 million. To help offset that cost, the study showed monthly bill impacts going forward for Willow Park, should an increase take effect, will be:

*Residential - Current, $108.21; fiscal year 2024, $119.21; FY25, $130.66; FY 26, $142.11; FY27, $142.56; FY28, $143.01.

*Commercial - Current, $201.21; FY24, $258.40; FY25, $289.59; FY26, $320.78; FY27, $322.13; FY28, $323.48.

"Not having any adjustments over several years, it's something we have to look at," Willow Park Mayor Doyle Moss said. "The cost of everything is going up. We're playing catch-up.”

New wastewater plant

The council authorized city staff to amend the bid specifications for a new wastewater plant and seek competitive proposals. The capacity has been reduced from 1 million gallons to 750,000 gallons based on current and projected future water usage because of growth expectations.

"Seven hundred and fifty give you quite a bit of expansion room, based on projections we now have," said Derek Turner of Jacob and Martin Civil Engineers.

Current water usage in Willow Park is about 350,000 gallons per day.


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