The Arlington City Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve the $454.2 million Fiscal Year 2017 operating budget.The City’s budget for next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, includes significant investments in public safety and technology as well as the first year of a three-year plan to make city employee salaries and benefits more competitive with area north Texas cities.The City Council voted to approve a modest reduction in Arlington’s property tax rate after seeing a 9.1 percent growth in assessed valuations, which are determined by the Tarrant Appraisal District. The City’s property tax rate, which has been 64.80 cents per $100 of assessed value since 2001, was reduced to 64.48 cents per $100 of assessed value. This could result in a property tax savings for some Arlington residents.Arlington’s budget and business plan is built around supporting the City Council’s five priorities: Champion Great Neighborhoods, Support Quality Education, Invest in Our Economy, Enhance Regional Mobility and Put Technology to Work.“We are continuously looking for new ways to innovate, to save, and to provide the highest value to our residents,” said City Manager Trey Yelverton, adding that Arlington’s property tax rate is competitive with surrounding North Texas cities.The City also offers several property tax exemptions, some of which are not available in surrounding communities. These include a 20 percent homestead exemption, a $60,000 exemption for homeowners who are disabled or over the age of 65 and exemptions ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 for veterans.Public safety improvements are among next year’s budget priorities. After a $50,000 pilot program, the City Council approved $2.4 million for a police body worn camera program but the council will continue to study the issue before implementing the program.Other proposals include $578,000 to match a federal grant that helped add 15 new police officers last year and about $640,000 in additional funds for records management and equipment.Improving the City’s technology is another focus, with $2.7 million in additional funding planned for software upgrades, laptops for fire trucks and 9-1-1 hardware and software maintenance.The budget also calls for an additional $380,000 for the upkeep of new park assets, such as the planned Rush Creek Dog Park that is set to open in early 2017, $193,000 to enhance the Bad Konigshofen Family Aquatic Center’s filtration system, $100,000 for the Neighborhood Matching Grant Program and $200,000 to support local arts organizations.The City also plans to spend an additional $2.7 million on street maintenance and $50,000 on street light maintenance next fiscal year.Overall, the budget calls for the creation of 40 new employee positions. Of those, 15 are police sergeants. The City also plans to add five employees in Public Works and Transportation for management of increased road construction projects and a new flood and erosion control plan.At the direction of City Council, Arlington will also place emphasis on increasing employee compensation over the next three years to be competitive with other cities and businesses. For the upcoming fiscal year, Arlington is budgeting about $9 million to go toward increased employee pay and pension benefits.The three-year plan to bring employee salaries in line with the market will help the City ensure it can hire and retain the most qualified and skilled workers, Yelverton said.While Arlington’s water rates remain among the lowest in the Metroplex, about $6 million in increased fees from the Tarrant Regional Water District and the Trinity River Authority are being passed along to the City in Fiscal Year 2017. This is expected to result in 4.85 percent rate increase for the average residential water utilities customer. The new water rates will go into effect January 1, 2017.Overall, the average Arlington resident will pay $9.89 more per month for City, Water, Sanitation and Storm Water services.
- Property tax goes up by $6.54 per month
- Water and sewer rates increase $2.48 per month
- Garbage rates will increase 36 cents per month
- Storm water rate will increase 50 cents per month