Just seven years ago, City Hall got only 27 percent of their general fund from property taxes. But increasing valuations and growth have bumped the city’s share of that cash to 32 percent of its biggest fund, according to a report delivered to City Council members this week. Meanwhile, almost every other piggy bank of revenue has been slipping. Franchise fees dropped from 20 percent to 17 percent; gas tax (based on gallons used, not the climbing price) has dropped from about 11 percent to about 8 percent; and all that $5.8 million the city used to get from the state is now a big zero because of a change in state law. Also, the money the city gets from franchise agreements with Southwestern Bell have fallen fast as many drop their land lines in favor of mobile phones. Revenue from the phone franchise fees has fallen $2.9 million since 2000, the city’s report showed.
All this has raised the question of whether the city should franchise other services, such as trash. Council members didn’t say a word when city budget analyst Mark Manning posed the question. They also didn’t have much to say when Manning showed that the city would get $60 million a year if it enacted a one cent sales tax. But some cringed at the notion that cities such as Eastborough get a bite ($179,000 for Eastborough) of the county-wide sales tax pie despite not having any known retail activity in their small community. But Council members have repeatedly — dozens of times — rejected any suggestions that the city increase taxes. The Council has raised water and sewer bills, increased court costs and hiked bus fares and the cost of a round of golf at the municipal courses. But it hasn’t touched the mill levy in more than a decade.
To see the city’s quarterly reports, click here.