2-cent tax increase eyed for future Bellmead road work

The Bellmead City Council is considering a two-cent property tax rate increase in hopes of building a long-term fund dedicated to road work.

Assistant City Manager Karen Evans gave the city council an updated presentation for the 2025 budget during a meeting Tuesday, as the council requested in June’s meeting. Evans and City Manager Yost Zakhary last month sought direction on the council’s willingness for a tax increase, and council members asked staff to analyze the effects of an increase between one and four cents.

After about 15 minutes of discussion Tuesday, the council suggested Evans and Zakhary go with the two-cent option, which would start in October and generate $144,662 in the coming fiscal year. The tax hike would cost an extra $2.33 a month — $27.91 a year — for Bellmead residents with a home taxable value of $139,543.

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Zakhary and Evans stressed the importance of thinking for the future, saying the fund will continue to build with the idea that certain roads can begin being worked on as soon as 2026. They said they understand if residents are impatient for more immediate results.

“I have seen this work in other cities and it (that fund) adds up a lot quicker than you think,” said Zakhary, former Woodway city manager.

If the city sticks with the two-cent option for the next two years, it will generate $289,324 by October 2026, giving the city officials flexibility to plan for even more increases as they near the half-million mark.

Zakhary said the process for a stretch of road work cannot begin with less than $500,000 in the fund, and last month Evans said it costs about $1 million to repair a mile of road. City officials have mentioned parts of Katy Lane and other congested intersections as high-priority repairs once the fund builds.

Apart from the property tax-funded street improvement fund contribution, the 2025 budget also calls for spending $1.6 million on street maintenance, up from about $1 million in the current budget year. The maintenance budget is mostly funded by a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax.

Bellmead has not yet released an estimated property tax rate or property tax revenue estimate for 2024-25.

Bellmead also has yet to calculate the state-required no-new-revenue rate, which determines the total tax rate it can set by law, taking into account increases in property appraisals.

Preliminary estimates from the McLennan Central Appraisal District show the average Bellmead taxable home value will be $139,543, up 6.9% or $12,250 from last year’s average of $127,293.

With Bellmead residents facing increases to water and trash bills, as well as expenses from La Vega ISD and rising food costs, the council members said the two-cent property tax increase option was a good start, with potential to increase or scale back a year from now.

Evans also noted in her presentation that Bellmead taxes would have remained lower than surrounding cities even if city officials decided to go with the four-cent option, which would have generated $289,324 in a year. Only Lacy-Lakeview would be in striking distance in terms of property tax.

The rest of Evans’ presentation detailed significant capital needs for drainage infrastructure and street rehabilitation, with costs for those being in the millions. Evans said it would take at least five years to start one project but that “we can start (building) incrementally.”

The city of Bellmead in 2023 implemented a stormwater drainage fee on property owners. The fee brought in an estimated $420,872 in the current budget year, with $428,539 estimated in the coming fiscal year.

Evans said sufficient funding has not yet been obtained to complete major drainage projects, which would cost millions of dollars.

Craig Rice, Bellmead’s public works director, also said his team is working on finding more effective short-term ways to improve drainage and limit hazardous flooding in residential areas.

In other news, Zakhary announced that the city is hiring a new assistant police chief, a position that’s been vacant for over a year. Sgt. Corey Harrison of the El Paso Sheriff’s Office is expect fills the void starting in August.

Harrison was unanimously selected by a committee of Bellmead Police Chief Shawn Myatt, Hewitt Police Chief John McGrath, Lorena Police Chief Scott Holt, Robinson Police Chief Danny Smith and Evans.

“It was a challenge early on because we had several candidates,” Zakhary said. “We made some salary adjustments to get him (Harrison), but we’re in range.”

Harrison has experience with the El Paso Police Department, as well as his current stint with the sheriff’s office. Zakhary said Harrison is making the move to Bellmead to be closer to his family, who lives in the Waco area.

Brenda Kinsey, Bellmead’s most recent assistant police chief, still has an active federal lawsuit against Zakhary and the city.

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