After no response at public hearings, Paris City Council on Monday adopted a 2020-21 fiscal year budget and is expected to approve a 48.519 cents per $100 valuation property tax rate tonight at a 5:30 p.m. meeting.
Following a closed door meeting, the council took no action on a discussion about a Paris Economic Development Corp. financial incentive for Project X and Project Rainwater Falls. The two projects are discussion items tonight at a 6:30 p.m. PEDC meeting at City Hall, 107 E. Kaufman St.
Councilors also approved a $31,000 lighting system for the Plaza, a $130,000 upgrade to the city’s data center hardware, the refunding of a 2010 certificate of obligation, a negotiated natural gas rate increase with Atmos Energy, the extension of the mayor’s declaration of a health disaster, an appointment to the Paris Historical Commission and several solid waste collection permits.
The $24,443,660 adopted budget, which shows a 3.5% increase from the $23,615,442 budgeted last year, went into effect Sept. 1. It includes a 2% cost of living wage for city employees (city manager excluded), the addition of a city planner and a fourth code enforcement officer in addition to four police cars, an animal patrol unit, a bulldozer and several other equipment items, according to City Manager Grayson Path.
Down almost 4 cents from last year, the proposed tax rate of 48.519 cents per $100 valuation is within 2 cents of the maximum rate a city with a population of less than 30,000 can charge without taking it to the voters under Senate Bill 2, the new Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019.
In the absence of Mayor Steve Clifford and Councilor Renae Stone, councilors adopted the budget unanimously.
“This has been an absolutely wonderful process,” Councilor Linda Knox said as she praised Path and his staff. “I thank you for your consideration, your being so well prepared and your presenting to us so well.”
Main Street Coordinator Cheri Bedford said her department will use $31,000 budgeted for Community Development in the 2019-20 budget to purchase a multi-functional lighting system for the Plaza, expected to be in place by the end of September.
“Lighting on the Plaza has been a problem for years,” Bedford said, noting safety concerns and well as aesthetic landscaping possibilities. “The color changing lights will change up the way we are doing the holidays because we can light anything any color that you can imagine.”
A negotiated settlement with Atmos Energy will result in a $5.15 monthly increase to residential natural gas bills and a $15.48 increase for commercial customers, according to City Finance Manager Gene Anderson.
The refunding of a 2010 certificate of obligation bonds, originally $3.5 million, will save the city roughly $172,000 over the next 10 years, Anderson said. Bonds were issued when the city extended South Collegiate Drive south to Southeast Loop 286 when the new Paris High School was built.
The upgrade of data center hardware will extend the city’s ability to serve the technology needs of all departments and to safeguard information for at least another five years, according to Information Technology Director Kent Klinkerman.
After removing Timothy Alexander from the Paris Historical Commission for lack of attendance at meetings and for failure to take the oath of office since being appointed in late June, councilors appointed Jennifer Long to fill the vacancy.