Editor's note: This story was revised to better clarify which employees would be eligible for the proposed pay raises.
LA MARQUE — La Marque is proposing a $17 million budget for the coming fiscal year that includes an across-the-board pay increase for longtime city employees.
Council members got their first look at the proposed budget, which is about $1 million less than the fiscal year 2014 budget, Thursday.
While the budget cuts costs, it also includes about $150,000 for a 3 percent raise for non-collective bargaining employees who have been with the city for more than two years. Police officers and firefighters are the city's only collective bargaining employees and their pay is based on their contracts.
About 50 city employees could see a raise if the budget is approved, City Manager Carol Buttler said.
The budget also includes funds to hire some new employees to refill positions that had been cut in previous years, Buttler said.
And the budget includes about $267,000 in funding for the library.
The city needs to keep a certain amount of funding for the library to keep it from losing its state accreditation.
“What’s in here now is a good faith maintenance of effort,” Buttler said.
The City Council will hash out the details of the budget in a series of workshops next week, but on Thursday they unanimously approved keeping the tax rate at 51.436 cents per $100 of taxable value.
The effective tax rate, the rate needed to raise the same amount of revenue with the new appraisal values, would be slightly smaller at 51.0530 cents per $100 of taxable value, according to the proposed budget.
The average taxable value of a resident’s homestead in La Marque in 2014 was $87,108, up nearly $3,000 from 2013, according to the Galveston County Tax Office.
Adopting the effective tax rate would have saved a homeowner about $3 in yearly taxes.
The proposed budget states that the city will raise almost $94,000 more in property taxes than last year’s budget but the majority, nearly $70,000, comes from new property added to the tax roll.
Buttler said department budgets are staying flat and the city is building up its reserve fund while finding ways to pay for things such as the pay increase.
The city’s sales tax revenue remains strong, and Buttler said they were able to use that to pay for the raise.
“We’ve had enough increase in the sales tax from Sam’s (Club) that there’s enough there to absorb those costs,” she said.
There are some things that the city will still need to figure out how to pay for.
Buttler said large one-time expenses and capital improvement projects were pulled out from the general fund budget and will need to be dealt with separately when the council can find the funds for them.
There are about $240,000 in large, one-time expenses for things such as a new generator, minor remodeling at City Hall and other repairs, according to the budget.
There are also about $1.8 million in general fund and utility fund capital projects, which include new playground equipment, street and sidewalk repairs, and sewer line repairs, among many other projects, according to the budget.
The city will need to either find new revenues, which could include a loan or a bond sale, or use revenue surplus to pay for these high-dollar expenses, Buttler said.
Those are decisions the council will need to make down the road, but for now the city is in good a position, she said.
Mayor Bobby Hocking agreed and said the city was in good shape financially.
“We are not where we’re going to be,” he said. “We are not where we want to be, but we are sure as heck not where we use to be.”
At a Glance
Proposed fiscal year 2015 budget: $17,230,593
Tax rate: 51.436 cents per $100 of taxable value.
Effective tax rate (rate needed to raise the same amount of revenue with the new appraisal values): 51.0530 cents per $100 of taxable value
Budget Workshop schedule: The council will meet from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday to work out the 2014-15 budget. The council can also meet Thursday and Friday if needed to continue working on the budget.