Roma likely to increase multiple rate fees

The city of Roma did not make as much money as they expected to this year, according to revenue figures from the city. So as they prepare their budget for the next fiscal year, the city is considering ways to cover costs including increasing rates for wastewater and garbage collection.

This year, many of their revenue sources did not meet projections leaving their total revenues from their general fund at $4,065,332.46 — $962,704.81 less than what the city had budgeted, according to a preliminary budget which calculates this year’s figures as of July 31 which is two months before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

However, their total expenditures came in lower than expected too — though still higher than their revenues — at $4,269,975.06.

City Manager Crisanto Salinas said the city will mostly likely increase garbage collection fees by $3 per month, though he said the city was still working on the budget and figures were not final.

Currently, for $19 per month, the city collects both garbage and brush. Recently though, residents have been complaining that the city has been lagging in collecting brush, according to Salinas.

So with the revenue from the $3 increase, the city plans to purchase a brush truck to improve service.

The city is also considering raising wastewater fees but Salinas said they had not yet settled on a figure.

Another reason the city is looking at rate increases is to fund salary increases for city employees, who Salinas said haven’t received a raise in two years, and to provide more funding for the police department.

An alleged lack of funding and resources is what prompted Roma police officers to sign on to a letter to the city council that detailed grievances against Salians and the police chief.

On Aug. 14, the majority faction of the Roma city council voted to initiate an investigation into the allegations in the letter.

Councilman Joel Hinojosa Jr. said at the time that the investigation would consist of speaking with each officer and working with them on the budget to meet their needs.

“So we’re looking, as far as, how we can come up with more money to address some of those issues,” Salinas said.

But perhaps their biggest change for next year is the city’s implementation of an Interest and Sinking — or I&S — tax rate.

An I&S tax rate is part of a city’s overall property tax rate which consists of the I&S tax and the M&O tax — or maintenance and operation tax.

Revenue from the M&O tax are used for pretty much what it sounds like — to fund the city’s operations. However, revenue from the I&O tax is used to pay off debt.

Salinas said the city was implementing an I&S tax to pay off debt service incurred from a 2014 drainage project referred to as “the Ebony Project.”

“When we did that project, we did what’s called a combo where you pledge your tax base but you also pledge the enterprise fund,” Salinas said. “But now we have noticed in the past two years our revenues in our enterprise have been flat. We’re not growing.”

“Our water revenues, our wastewater revenues, our solid waste revenues — are stagnant; we haven’t grown,” he said. “But our expenses have grown.”

The city’s current property tax rate is at $0.531372 per $100 of valuation. However, with an I&S tax of $0.074063, the overall property tax rate for the 2019-2020 fiscal year is expected to be $0.605435 per $100 valuation.

The first public hearing on the proposed tax rate was held on Sept. 5 with the second scheduled for Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. at the Roma City Hall.