Council adopts budget, sets tax rate

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The Sealy City Council was to meet Wednesday, Sept. 25, to formally adopt an $8.1 million budget and set the tax rate at $.39807 per $100 property valuation, which is about a penny higher than last year.

The special meeting follows public hearings that were held earlier this month. On Sept. 17, the council held public hearings on the budget and the tax rate and received very little comment. Although no one commented during the public hearing on the tax rate, Bridgid Stevenson spoke about it during the public comment period before the hearing.

“No one likes to see increases in taxation. But the reality is, this council is finding itself in a position of dealing with financial issues that have not been addressed in many previous years,” she said. “I know a lot of citizens have big issues about increases and I just want to say on your behalf, you’re in a situation that is painful to do the right thing. I know that’s what you’re trying to do. It has to be done whether it’s property tax … but sewer, water, everything.”

Stevenson commended the council for taking the initiative to raise taxes and utility rates to take care of expenses that have been deferred or neglected in the past.

“I believe that you all have been honorable, and you take the road you know you must take even if everyone gets upset and fights against it. But we have to do this. Every year it gets postponed and it just puts us further and further in trouble,” she said. “The reality is you’re doing the right thing and I want to commend you for doing that.”

The complement seemed to catch the council off guard.

“That you for your support. We don’t hear that very often, so it makes a big difference,” Mayor Janice Whitehead said.

The only comment made during the public hearing about the budget was a question asking what the current budget is compared to the proposed budget. The current budget, ending at the end of September, is $5.9 million. The proposed 2019-2020 budget is $8.1 million, which includes payments for 380 performance agreements with various companies that have recently located to Sealy.

City Manager Lloyd Merrell said most of the increase reflects growth in the community.

“We’re adding a lot of houses. In the last two months we’ve announced two different plants that are going to bring a lot of people,” he said.

Merrell said with the projected growth that the budget will continue to increase each year.

“It’s a natural progression. As the city grows, we’re going to go up every year. Our population is going to go up every year, our jobs are going up every year, houses are going to go up every year. That’s just the way it is. The community’s growing,” he said.

As proof of the grown, Merrell announced in his report to the council that a new 150-unit housing development has been proposed between Sealy Elementary School and Highway 36. He said a company called BSR wants to build about 150 homes on 80 acres in three phases. The first phase would be homes in the $180,000 to $220,000 price range, with prices and house sizes going up in consecutive phases.

Merrell said the development would have two entrances, including one on Highway 36. Construction could start as soon as this fall.

“It’s going to have a nice water feature,” he said.

In other action:

* The council unanimously approved second readings and adoption of ordinances updating the city’s smoking ordinances to include all electronic smoking devices (vaping), rates for water, sewer, and solid waste; and reimbursement of $80,704.71 to Sika through the Sealy Economic Development Corporation.

* The council also unanimously approved $75,000 in incentives for Hailiang Copper Texas for infrastructure and tap fees.

* The council appointed Wyn McCready to the TIRZ #2 board and Councilman Adam Burttschell to the Houston-Galveston Area Council 2020 Assembly.

* The council created the Capital Improvements Advisory Committee and appointed Errick Statum, Theadra Curry, Annie Smith, Clayton Schaurda and Ellen Remmert to the board.

Following an executive session, the council voted to authorize staff and the city attorney to meet with Prasek’s Hillje Smokehouse on their 380 agreement with the city.

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