The city of Zachary may increase its property tax rate for 2016 in an effort boost the city’s coffers as it endures budget cuts and declining sales tax revenue.
The City Council won’t vote on the matter until late next month, but Mayor David Amrhein urged members to look at the proposal seriously. He said the city’s budget has been cut by about $2 million in the past couple of years, and now “there’s nowhere else to cut.”
Since 2000, the city has been levying a 3.17-mill property tax. Amrhein wants to raise it to the maximum rate allowed without voter approval.
City Attorney John Hopewell said the parish assessor has not yet indicated what the maximum rate would be, but it likely will be about 3.5 mills. The property tax rate is reset by the council every year, Hopewell said.
The mayor said most taxpayers won’t notice the higher rate, if it’s approved. Currently, the owner of a home valued at $200,000 pays $62 yearly in property taxes to the city.
“If we went as high as we could go, it may add another $20 to their bill a year,” he said. “You’re still under $100 for police, fire, public works and drainage.”
Zachary’s school district is funded by a separate property tax. City residents also pay property taxes to East Baton Rouge Parish.
It is critical to bring in more funds now, Amrhein said, expressing concern that a further decrease in funds could hinder the services the city government can provide. The growing city will eventually need new police and fire stations and a new city hall, he said.
Councilman Ben Cavin said too much of the city’s funding stream comes from sales tax revenue, which has recently declined in Zachary.
“We’re not raising taxes, we’re just adjusting it with the increased cost of doing business,” he said.
Zachary is the only municipality in East Baton Rouge Parish that has seen a recent decrease in sales tax revenue, officials said during a Feb. 16 budget workshop.
The council also voted to eliminate annual pay raises for city employees and instead offer them a raise every other year. Cost of living and performance raises will not be affected. The city’s municipal pay plan, which does not include police and fire personnel, has not changed since 2008.