BC council adds Reed, preps budget
Photo: Bridge City City Council members Mike Reed, left, Mayor David Rutledge, Terri Gauthier, Tammi Fisette, Danny Harrington, Lucy Fields and Carl Harbert listen as City Manager Jerry Jones, far right, explains his 2020 budget proposals. RECORD PHOTO: Dave Rogers
Mike Reed, a 10-year veteran of the Bridge City City Council was brought back by council to fill the Place 2 position. That spot was previously held by Kirk Roccaforte, who resigned to accept appointment to Orange County Commissioners’ Court. RECORD PHOTO: Dave Rogers
Bridge City’s newest council member, Mike Reed, is learning on the fly.
He was appointed to fill out Kirk Roccaforte’s seat on council on Wednesday, July 24, then the council began budget workshops the next day.
“It’s only a few days I’ve been on the council, so I’m basically trying to get caught up with what’s going on around town,” Reed said.
He’s a retired electrician who has spent the past 14 years driving a school bus.
But he’s also no stranger to Bridge City Council, having served 10 years as a city council man, from 2006-2016.
Ironically, Reed’s Place 2 seat was filled by Roccaforte, a former Bridge City mayor who recently left the Bridge City Council to take the Orange County Commissioners seat for Precinct 3, which includes Bridge City.
Jerry Jones, city manager for Bridge City, led the council through budget workshops last Thursday and Monday, July 29.
Workshops set for Friday, July 26, and Monday, July 29, were canceled after the seven councilors, Carl Harbert, Reed, Tammi Fisette, Randy Harrington, Terri Gauthier, Lucy Fields and David Rutledge, mayor, agreed with the recommendations made by Jones.
The average homestead values in Bridge City have climbed 9% in 2019, from $127,186 per house to $138,547 per house.
Councilors unofficially approved a tax rate increase from 54.7 cents per $100 value to 55.35 cents per $100 value.
It is just less than 8% more than the 50.7 cents per $100 value effective tax rate and would require the owner of that “average” home worth $138,547 to pay an additional $57 in city taxes.
The rate proposal must be confirmed by city council at its next meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 6 and then published prior to a public hearing, before being finalized by council.
The effective tax rate is that rate needed to realize the same amount of property tax values year to year.
When property values fall, as after Hurricane Ike, the effective tax rate goes up. When values go up, the effective tax rate goes down.
The rise in Bridge City’s home values means the city could lower its tax rate by 4 cents per $100 value – from last year’s 54.7 cents per $100 value to 50.7 cents per $100 value – and still receive the same $1.85 million in property tax revenues as last year.
But Jones and the council members want to give all city employees a 3% pay raise to match the one recently negotiated by the police union.
Like all Texas city leaders, Bridge City’s are eyeing a new state law which will limit future tax rate increases to 3.5% above the effective tax rate, unless citizens vote to OK more.
The preliminary effective rate for Bridge City is 50.7 cents per $100, according to city staff.
The old threshold for a rollback election, which remains in place for this year only, is any raise of 8% or higher than the effective tax rate.
The 55.35 cents per $100 tax rate should generate an extra $203,000 for the city.
That’s $80,000 more than the city would realize by holding its tax rate to 3.5% over the effective tax rate, Jones said.
The proposed Bridge City rate would still be far from the 80.9 cents per $100 charged in 2018 by the city of Orange. Both Vidor and Pinehurst had 2018 rates over 70 cents per $100.
Included in the $8 million budget proposed by Jones, one that receives inputs from industrial plants, state and federal sources as well as water and sewer services, is money to pay a new public works director.
Jones, who was hired by the city to be public works director nearly 20 years ago, has done double duty since taking over as city manager.
But he said he will be advertising the job soon.
“What I’m proposing to do, I’m not ready to divulge yet,” he said. “But I think it’s what’s best for the city. I think it’ll have the city on the right path for the next 20 years.”