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Lakeway Connection

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Sep 13

$0.1201, a Historic Low in Maintenance & Operations Tax Rate

Posted on September 13, 2018 at 8:42 PM by Devin Monk

By SANDY COX

Every Summer the city starts the budget process for the next fiscal year. The City Manager (Steve Jones) and Assistant City Manager (Julie Oakley) work with each of the departments to reduce expenditures while considering the needs of our community. Once they complete their internal process, the Staff brings the City Council and community into the process over the course of several meetings. During these meetings the Council challenges the Staff on specific items, discusses policy changes, and determines what additional requests will be funded within the budget cycle.

The City Management and City Council discuss Effective and Rollback tax rates ad nauseum. The Effective tax rate is the rate that keeps the residents’ tax bill the same while considering property tax appraisal increases/decreases. The Rollback rate equates to an 8% increase from the previous year (however, the Legislature is contemplating a reduction to this percentage in their next session).

Within the first few sessions, the Council is required to set a “not to exceed” tax rate. This year we initially set it to the same tax rate as last year ($0.1741).  In practice, we give ourselves some padding at this point in the process since we have not yet reviewed all of the budget line items. As the next few work sessions and hearings occur, the City Council asks the Staff to sharpen their pencils and the Council chooses which new programs to support. 

After all of the due diligence, I'm happy to report that the City Management and City Council have proposed the Effective Tax Rate of $0.1645.  The City Council WILL NOT raise taxes this year.  Additionally, the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) portion of the tax rate is the lowest in the history of Lakeway at $0.1201. The City of Lakeway tax bill for an average home in Lakeway ($527,427) is $867. This is an incredible accomplishment for our city as we were able to achieve all of our objectives for this budget year. Here are a few of the reasons why this is significant:
  1. The Council wanted to keep our tax rate flat but also wanted to increase our fund balance ratio policy from 25% to 30% to align with our financial advisor's recommendations, as well as Moody's bond rating service. This change was done in order to insure we maintain a highly regarded bond rating (currently Aa1). As residents, we care about this rating because the city will be asking the community to support a $5M bond for the 620 expansion in less than 2 years. Our bond rating effects the interest rate for our bonds and what we as citizens will pay in the Interest & Sinking rate (debt service).  This policy change created an approximate $700,000 hurdle that the Staff had to overcome to keep our tax dollars flat.  
  2. The budget includes 6 months of operating expenses for the new police station which is slated to open in the Spring of 2019.  It also includes the salary of another police officer which is needed to support our new K9, Reno, who was generously donated earlier this year.  Another position was also granted for the Parks and Recreation department with some role realignments as well as the elimination of 2 part-time positions.  The City Staff and Council closely monitor the personnel costs because those costs equate to 75% of the city budget.
  3. The Council also created a new line item in the budget to fund vehicle expenditures out of our Capital Reserve Fund. Historically, the city has moved excess funds to the Capital Reserve Fund opportunistically at the end of the fiscal year. This policy change ensures the city is purposefully funding our fleet management plan each year instead of relying on budget savings each year.  
  4. There are several other items that were funded in this plan that relate to our committees, commissions, and boards such as the Oral History Videos for the Heritage commission, July 4th Celebration expenditures, and monies to help the city communicate more effectively with our residents. We also set aside some money to fund our new committees: Parks and Recreation Committee, Public Engagement Advisory Committee, and our Comprehensive Planning Committee.  We all benefit from each of the new and ongoing community programs these committees drive for the city.
In closing, I would like to extend a huge “thank you” to our wonderful City Staff. I especially want to acknowledge Steve Jones and Julie Oakley for the many late-night hours they worked that resulted in a budget that exceeded our expectations. Not only did the staff meet all of the Council’s goals, but they reduced our operating tax rate which achieved an overall Effective tax rate. On Monday, September 17th the City Council will finalize the decisions made through a formal ordinance.

Sandy Cox is mayor of the City of Lakeway.
Aug 02

First 60 Days: Many 'Firsts'

Posted on August 2, 2018 at 3:25 PM by Devin Monk

By SANDY COX

My term as Mayor has started out with many “Firsts” — the first woman mayor, the first mayor with a one-year term, and the first 48-year-old mayor, which is the youngest in Lakeway’s history. And, I’m also willing to bet that I’m the first Lakeway mayor to provide remarks after a successful Chicken Auction (congratulations to the Rotary club for raising over $1,000).

WEB - Lakeway Connection - logo2The first 60 days have been fast-paced and eventful. During this short time, we have appointed over 40 residents to our boards, commissions, and committees. We have re-instated the Parks and Recreation Committee, re-tasked our deer committee to include all wildlife (now the Wildlife Advisory Committee), and standardized the formation and procedures of our committees. We executed a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process to find our next City Attorney and have sworn in Cobby Caputo from Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP. as our attorney.

Our new e-newsletter, The Lake Way, is publishing its eighth edition this week with over 80 percent approval from our residents. The newly formed Public Engagement Advisory Committee (PEAC) is working to find better ways of communicating to and engaging with our residents. Stay tuned for our first town hall and satisfaction survey.

Our wonderful staff, community organizations, and volunteers have hosted our quintessential Lakeway events: the Memorial Day celebration, the Quarter-Century Club Luncheon, and the July 4th Celebration parade and Pageantry of Flags. These events are very popular and so important in maintaining our culture as we continue to grow. I’m thankful for the hundreds of volunteers who support our city. Without them, these events would not occur.

The City is in the midst of the budget planning process for next year. There are a series of public meetings planned in the next eight weeks in order to receive input from our residents. This process is the single most influential process your City Council will undertake. This process will decide the level of service the city will provide for our community and the tax rate we will pay to support those services.

In September, we will start the revision of the Comprehensive Plan - our 15-year vision for Lakeway. I expect that work will take approximately a year to complete. There will be ample time for community input into the Plan. When completed, this document will include the vision for the future, operational plans to achieve the vision, and a financial plan to support the work.

In the coming months we will revise our residential sign ordinance, review our code enforcement procedures and ordinances, and begin a process to review our building code ordinances. We will continuously improve our services to support a thriving Lakeway.

I’m proud to lead our amazing city through this next chapter. Together, we can maintain our small town charm, yet evolve with the inevitable growth. Thank you for your support!

Sandy Cox is mayor of the City of Lakeway.
Dec 12

Mayor spells out success for students

Posted on December 12, 2017 at 3:19 PM by Devin Monk

Lakeway Mayor Joe Bain joins parents and staff in congratulating Serene Hills Elementary School’s annual Spelling Bee winner Cole Nguyen, fifth grade (No. 15), and runner-up Luke Brown, fourth grade (No. 4), after calling the Spelling Bee for his third year in a row.

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