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Mesquite, TX – September 23, 2020 – The Mesquite City Council approved the City of Mesquite budget for fiscal year 2020 – 2021. The budget features a tax rate decrease for property owners, no increase in fees for water utility customers and additional police officers. The City’s annual fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
City Manager Cliff Keheley said, “The impacts of state’s new tax cap on cities was a tremendous hit to our operations. The 3.5% cap on the new revenue the City could have generated by increased property values impacted our budget plans. However, through cost-saving measures by our staff, we were able to compensate for the loss in potential revenue and still be able to plan on some new initiatives.” Keheley added the revenue the City received from sales tax this year was much better than expected and also helped offset the impacts of the property tax caps set by the state.
The City’s $260 million budget is funded by about 46% in property taxes, 25% in sales tax, and other fees and charges. The budget features a $.02538 property tax decrease to $0.70862 per $100 of assessed valuation. A public hearing on the proposed property tax rate will be held on Sept. 28. Keheley explained the lower tax rate will still generate additional revenue because of the new home growth in the city.
Mayor Bruce Archer said, “This budget is significant. It shows this City Council has listened to our citizens. We have dug deep to find ways to continue offering quality services without additional burden on tax payers. And as an organization, we will all work a little harder, make needed sacrifices and keep learning to do more with less. Our city employees always come through. I am proud of this budget, and what our city manager and his staff was able to accomplish during a very difficult year. And we will accomplish even greater things going forward, whatever it takes.”
The City will add four police officers, including a school resource officer for Wooley Middle School and three additional patrol officers. Other staffing increases will include five additional street maintenance employees in Public Works to focus on alley repairs as well as 18 new parks maintenance employees in Parks and Recreation to maintain street medians and oversee some beautification projects. And, Mesquite Animal Control will get two more animal control officers to help address stray animals loose in the community. Keheley explained the City will freeze various positions and utilize funding from existing contracts to fund many of these positions.
One new element of the budget is funding for enhancing the City’s response to the community’s mental health needs. Keheley elaborated that the funds will go towards heightened training for first responders in police and fire as well as the possibility of a mental health professional on staff or a partnership with another city. He said, “An improved mental health program will not only improve our services to citizens having a mental health crisis, it will free our police officers’ time to perform their primary responsibilities.”
Other new initiatives will include a conversion of the existing manual reading of water meters to a new electronic remote system. Also, the City will begin the design and construction of expanding the Mesquite Animal Shelter, with plans to add more animal control officers in 2022. And, the City will grow its transit services through its partnership with STAR Transit by expanding current operating hours for weekday schedules and adding the first-ever Saturday service.
To offset the increased costs in residential recycling, the City will add an additional $1 to the monthly fee for trash collection service fees. Some of the programs cut from the budget were the City’s vaccine clinic, which is a duplication of services already provided by Dallas County, various special events and a contract for services with the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce.
Keheley added, “This budget represents a yearlong effort to gather input from our citizens and develop strategies to address their vision for our community. The Council provided great direction on how to achieve that vision. We have made significant changes in the way we do business, we have added people and we have created programs that make us more efficient.”