Marble Falls’ property tax rate shrinks as economy grows

The city of Marble Falls chipped off more from its property tax rate, something it has managed to do each of the past couple years.

“I’m pretty excited about the tax rate and the city’s overall economic strength,” City Manager Mike Hodge said. “When I got here about four years ago, the rate was about sixty-five cents, but we’ve been able to bring it down to sixty-one cents now.”

The City Council approved a property tax rate of 61 cents per $100 valuation during its regular meeting September 17. The previous rate was 61.5 cents per $100 valuation. Hodge noted some residents might recall a rate of about half that more than a decade ago, but things are trending in a strong direction.

Over the past several years, the city has pulled down its debt, Hodge pointed out, which is reflected in the current property tax rate. Of the 61 cents, 25.69 cents goes to maintenance and operation and 35.31 cents goes to interest and sinking, also called debt service.

That means about 57 percent of the property tax rate goes to debt; five years ago, it was about 70 percent.

Along with lowering the debt, Hodge said two other things play into pulling down the property tax rate: local sales tax and assessed property values, both of which are up. Sales tax rate (2 percent) revenues have risen 4 percent this year while assessed property values are up 6 percent.

Those are more signs of a strong Marble Falls economy. When it comes to sales tax revenues, one of the biggest contributors is the building industry. Hodge said it makes up 30-35 percent of local sales tax revenues.

The building and construction industry contributions include road repairs/construction, school district projects, and new business and residential construction. All three of which are going on now, Hodge said.

Taxable sales recently took a big jump. According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, Marble Falls’ local sales tax payment for September, based on July revenues, jumped 13.91 percent compared to the same time last year.

That equates to approximately $42 million in taxable sales for July 2019.

The council also adopted a 2019-20 budget. Within the new budget, the city will hire one more police officer, purchase extrication equipment and a thermal imaging camera for Marble Falls Fire Rescue, and add more maintenance funds to the street department.

The city will also create more programs for the Parks and Recreation Department in addition to its Fourth of July and Spring Break activities. This includes a dive-in movie and an ice skating rink. The ice skating rink will be set up in late 2020 around Christmas. Hodge said the city will try it out for a week to see how it goes.

The City Council also approved an increase for water and sewer rates, which will come out to about 8 percent.

“We’re in the process of planning and building an expansion or a new (wastewater treatment) plant,” Hodge added.

The city expanded the current plant in 2016, but the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has notified the city that it needs to begin planning for more capacity.

Hodge said Marble Falls might have something in the works around 2021. He, city staff, and the City Council are working to tackle the project in a “pay-as-we-go” manner so costs are spread out.

“We’re trying to find the best way to do it, so it won’t be a huge burden,” he added.

The reality is Marble Falls is growing with more homes and businesses. Hodge said it looks like construction on Gregg Ranch will start in 2020. The development, located on about 240 acres in the Texas 71-U.S. 281 area, could eventually build out to 700 homes.

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