Cedar Park City Council adopts lowest tax rate in 13 years
Budget responds to growth with investments in public safety and infrastructure; City offers online tool to help community understand what property taxes fund.
Post Date:09/23/2016 6:00 p.m.
True to its core value of fiscal responsibility, the Cedar Park City Council has once again lowered the ad valorem property tax rate. At its September 22, 2016 Regular Meeting, City Council adopted a property tax rate of 47 cents – down from last year’s 47.95 cents – and representing a decrease of almost a penny for every $100 of property valuation. It is the lowest Cedar Park has seen in 13 years and is one the lowest property tax rates among other local cities.
“This is a Council that is as tax-rate conscious as any I’ve ever worked with,” Mayor Matt Powell said. “For the first time in the City’s 45-year history the tax rate has fallen for the fourth consecutive year, in part based on decisions made by prior Councils and this Council.”
Council Member Cobby Caputo said, “I think this is a good budget and the tax rate is moving in the right direction and I think we’ve got the ability to do all of the things we want to do and we couldn’t ask for more.”
The City Council adopted the new tax rate and a $48.9M General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2016-2017 at its Regular Meeting on Thursday, September 22, 2015. In addition to the lower tax rate, the new budget focuses on meeting citizens’ service level expectations and maintaining core services, while responding to continued growth and planning for long-term sustainability.
Lyle Grimes said, “I always look at a budget and think it should accomplish three goals. My three goals are being able to pay for the services that we need to have a quality city, paying down debt and, of course, lowering taxes.”
City Manager Brenda Eivens says that it is by design that Cedar Park has been named one of the most desirable places to live, one of the safest places to live, one of the best places for business, and one of the best places to raise a family. “We are staying the course of building and maintaining our vibrant community with a budget that balances investments in public safety and infrastructure with fiscal responsibility and sound debt management,” Eivens says. “As a service-driven organization we continue to maintain the professional and high level of service our citizens have come to expect and depend upon. This budget plans, manages and funds the necessary skilled workforce and capital improvement projects that contribute to our high quality of life here and make Cedar Park such a special place.”
Some highlights of the new budget include bond funds for some voter approved Public Safety and Streets and Roads Projects. Council Member Stephen Thomas said that City Council has taken its fiduciary responsibility to heart and paid particular attention to creating capacity for bond projects. “We looked at what it’s going to take for capacity for bonding and I appreciate Council indulging in the process to put the City in a healthy financial position,” Council Member Thomas said.
Council Member Kristyne Bollier said that City staff’s financial modeling of different scenarios helped City Council finalize the new budget. “I want to thank staff for their diligent, hard work,” Council Member Bollier said. “I know that we have asked hard questions and given you a lot of drills to go through. I appreciate the great modeling that you all have built and when we asked a question we were able to get answers really quickly.”
In addition to City Council adopting the new budget and tax rate, the City of Cedar Park has updated its online tool www.MyCedarParkBudget.com that was unveiled last year to help citizens fully understand the budget and what their property tax dollars support. This website features animated illustrations, interactive explanations, and a property tax calculator – in which citizens can enter their home’s assessed value and instantly see a chart that shows exactly where their property tax dollars go.
Decrease in tax rate
The City of Cedar Park is a lean organization committed to fiscal responsibility. One major contributor to the decrease in the tax rate for the fourth consecutive year is the growth we've seen in our business community. Our expanding business community brings more jobs to our City and provides you with more opportunities to shop and dine locally. As a result, the sales tax that is collected adds up, and helps offset the City’s reliance on property taxes to cover the cost of providing City services.
“We want to remind everyone how important it is shop and dine in Cedar Park to help keep your property tax rate low,” Eivens says. “This year, local sales tax revenue from sources including all of the new and existing local restaurants and retailers is expected to generate approximately $12.57 million to the General Fund, which contributes to funding our major services such as police and fire services, development, street maintenance, parks and library, and represents more than 27 percent of our General Fund budget.”
In addition to sales tax support of the General Fund, another $12.57M in sales tax revenue supports 4A Economic Development and 4B Community Development projects.
Responding to growth
Growth continues to drive the City’s investment in public safety. In fact, two-thirds of this year’s budget enhancements are devoted to Police and Fire. The FY 2016-2017 budget includes the start of voter-approved bond projects such as design and construction of and equipment for (quint and brush truck) the future Fire Station Number 5 which will serve the fast-growing north-central/northeast portions of the City, as well as design and construction of Phase 2 expansion of the Cedar Park Police Department. It includes five Firefighter positions, which represents another one-third of staffing for the future Fire Station 5, as well as two Police Officers, Evidence Technician and a part-time Information Technology position devoted to public safety.
The budget includes expansion of New Hope Road east from Cottonwood Creek to Ronald Reagan Boulevard and invests in other street improvements and drainage maintenance as part of the City’s continued response to growth.
Planning for sustainability and the future
The City continues to keep its eye on the future with its practices of sound debt payment management and investing in the City’s workforce. The City’s recent Bond Rating upgrade to AA+ affords more and better opportunities this budget year for the City find ways to restructure debt payments in order to pay off some existing debt early - thus saving taxpayers money.
The FY 2016-2017 budget also includes merit-based pay-for-performance increases for civilian staff and STEP increases for Civil Service Police and Fire employees.
Bell Boulevard, also known as US Highway 183, has long been hailed the “backbone” of Cedar Park. As our community has grown and evolved through the decades, so has Bell Boulevard. It remains the primary north-south corridor for our city. Throughout the years our residents have expressed a desire to see Bell Boulevard revitalized as a thriving commercial corridor with its own unique identity and special charm. This year’s budget includes voter-approved bond funding for engineering and design of Phase One of the Bell Boulevard Redevelopment Project, which will re-align Bell Boulevard between Buttercup Creek Boulevard-Brushy Creek Road-Old Highway 183 and Park Street and also redesign the current six-way intersection at Buttercup Creek-Brushy Creek-Old Highway 183 and Bell Boulevard. This road project will help set the stage for Phase Two of what will become a mixed use development featuring restaurants, retail, residences, offices and a natural area in the years to come.
High-end retail options and economic growth continue throughout Cedar Park thanks in part to 380 Economic Development agreements in place with the Parke, 1890 Ranch and Costco/Town Center. The FY 2016-2017 budget, as it has in the past, funds those agreements, reimbursing developers a portion of their General Fund sales tax and some property tax for achieving previously agreed-upon milestones.
About Cedar Park
In recent years the City of Cedar Park has twice been named the Fourth Fastest-Growing City in the Country, and remains among the United States’ Top 25 Fastest-Growing Cities, the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s no wonder why more people are choosing to call Cedar Park “home” for their families and businesses.
Located just 17 miles from downtown and bordering Austin, Texas, Cedar Park is a well-established community that was founded in 1887 and incorporated as a city in 1973. Now the third largest city in the Austin metro area with a population exceeding 68,000 within its city limits, the City of Cedar Park attracts residents from all over the globe because of its unique charm and close proximity to Austin and the Texas Hill Country. Cedar Park has 927 acres of parks and natural areas and approximately 22 miles of walking/running/cycling trails. There is truly something for everyone here. Whether it is hiking, bicycling, water sports, live music, great food, shopping or any other activity you enjoy, you will find in or very close to Cedar Park.
Cedar Park is home to three professional sports teams: the Texas Stars - the 2014 Calder Cup AHL Hockey League Champions and affiliates of the NHL Dallas Stars; the Austin Spurs - the NBA D-League team affiliates of the 2014 NBA World Champion San Antonio Spurs. They play at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, a City-owned facility is a multi-purpose venue that holds up to 8,700 guests and hosts more than 130 events per year.
Two Fortune 500 companies are major employers in Cedar Park: Dana Corporation and National Oilwell Varco. Cedar Park is also home and headquarters for several high tech employers including Firefly Space Systems, Fallbrook Technologies, LiveOps, Tolteq and Corvalent, along with industrial manufacturers such as BMC West Materials and BMC Millworks.
National online real estate brokerage firm Movato has named Cedar Park the Fifth Most Desirable Suburb in the Country in terms of amenities, cost of living, education, unemployment, household income, and safety. Movoto has also named Cedar Park the Third Best City to Move to in the Nation, and the Fourth Best Small City for Education in America. We are one of Family Circle Magazine Ten Best Towns for Families and Forbes Magazine has identified Cedar Park as one of America’s Fastest-Growing Suburbs. Security corporation SafeWise has ranked Cedar Park near the top of its 50 Safest Cities in Texas list, and for several years Cedar Park has had one of the lowest crime rates for cities of its size in Texas according to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s annual Crime in Texas Report. NerdWallet.com has also named Cedar Park the Best City (in the U.S.) to Open a Restaurant. All of these rankings are independent and unsolicited.
Cedar Park is a city that truly espouses its core values of community, service, innovation, professionalism, integrity, leadership, and fiscal responsibility. These standards are at the heart of daily life for Cedar Park citizens, City leaders, City staff, and business leaders. Visit www.cedarparktexas.gov today to learn more about the City of Cedar Park!