Tuesday, June 28, 2022

City Delivers Tax Relief for Residents and Businesses in the FY 2022 Budget

The proposed FY 2022 Budget has been submitted by City Manager Shana Yelverton to the City Council for consideration.

The proposed operating budget totals $104.6 million and includes a 1.5 cent tax rate decrease, reducing the total rate to $0.390. The tax rate reduction means a revenue reduction to the City of $1.23 million.

Taxable Value Reduction Calculation on HomesSouthlake’s 20% homestead exemption continues for FY 2022, the highest amount allowed by law. The 20% homestead exemption means homeowners of an average-valued home in Southlake will receive the equivalent of an approximate eight-cent tax rate reduction.

“For more than a decade the City Council has delivered on our continued promise of providing tax relief,” Mayor John Huffman said. “This tax rate reduction gives an extra boost to our residents with the continued 20% homestead exemption. Everyone understands that appraisals are constantly going up, so to have a new tax rate that’s below the effective rate, and still offer the 20% homestead exemption to our residents, is important to the families that call Southlake home.”

The City Council has been working strategically for meaningful tax relief for homeowners, managed with the consideration that as Southlake continues to grow, and infrastructure will need to be created and maintained. View a timeline of tax relief initiatives.

 

How did the City come up with this budget?

Throughout the fiscal year, in preparation for the budget, staff monitors several data sources to help project revenue. Using data from the residential and commercial sectors, employment numbers, consumer spending, and the impact from COVID-19, staff analyzes various economic scenarios to make financial projection decisions accordingly.

In spring 2021, departments begin preparing for the FY 2022 budget. Using a modified zero-based budget process, department directors prepare plans to fund the services the city will offer. Proposed expenses are carefully vetted before they are included in the budget proposal.

As a practice, the City limits operation budget growth to a benchmark reflective of the consumer price index. This means the cost of existing services shouldn’t exceed the cost growth of services in DFW. For FY 2022, the proposed General Fund budget growth is 2.4%.

More information about the budget process and assumptions can be found in the Budget Overview section of the FY 2022 Proposed Budget.

 

FY 2022 Budget AccomplishmentsWhat is included in the budget?

The budget includes project recommendations from the comprehensive plan and prioritizes Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) projects according to the Master Plans and the City’s ability to fund them. Cash will be used to pay for most of the important capital improvement projects. The City will issue bonds to supplement cash payments.

The amount budgeted for capital projects is $32.8 million. Planned capital improvement projects include improvements for sidewalks, drainage, parks projects like the Southlake Sports Complex improvements, as well as traffic and intersection safety initiatives. Additionally, this budget sets aside funding for the Municipal Service Center and Public Safety Training Tower.

The conservative budget sets up Southlake with an eye towards the future given the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining essential services like streets, water and sewer, as well as envisioning other projects to make Southlake the ideal place to live, work and play. A full overview of the FY 2022 budget can be found in the Transmittal Letter section of the FY 2022 Proposed Budget.

 

What about reducing debt?

The total debt fluctuates depending on projects funded during the year. Since 2010, the City’s property tax-supported debt has been reduced by 78%. The remainder of the current property tax debt obligations will be paid off in less than ten years.

“This is an important gauge of the City’s fiscal health and an important indicator that bond rating agencies review when determining the rating they will assign to city debt,” Chief Financial Officer Sharen Jackson said.

The debt reduction prepares the City to handle projects that will require bonds in the future, such as a new library, a potential open space program, CIP projects, and updating aging infrastructure.

 

FY 2022 Important Budget DatesIs the City dipping into savings to pay for operations?

Structural balance is a guiding principle to budget creation in Southlake. The City does not draw down from its reserves to pay for operating expenses and projected revenue must cover all planned expenses. Through this mindset, the City has paved the way to achieving optimum reserves and exceed the optimum fund balance to create an opportunity to pay cash for large projects.

 

What about providing quality services?

The outlined budget aims to continue the Southlake tradition of quality services not only with projects but with hiring and keeping world-class employees. Even with a tax reduction, the City of Southlake does not anticipate pay cuts, layoffs, or service reductions.

The proposed budget ensures the City of Southlake retains and recruits world-class employees. Under the General Fund accounts, more than 70% goes toward labor-related costs. This includes compensation and benefits that are market competitive but holds the line on costs. In 2022, the City proposes a cost of living adjustment of 2.5%, as well as a merit increase of 0-2% consistent with the City’s policy on compensation.

 

What’s the financial plan during so much economic uncertainty?

Most importantly, the budget is sustainable for the future.

Following the financial guiding principles positions the City for budget stability, even during difficult economic times.

“The decisions we make today affect our financial situation in the future,” City Manager Shana Yelverton said. “We must continue to provide outstanding service to the community today and ensure that we can cover these costs down the road.”

Learn more about the FY 2022 budget at www.CityofSouthlake.com/FY2022.

Why Should I Care About the Budget?

Want to see an upgrade to the library, recreation programs or your neighborhood sidewalks and parks?

The City’s budget funds everyday services such as fire response, police protection, drinking water, wastewater and streets to go from place to place. But the budget also goes beyond basic services to support the quality of life for those who live, work and play in Southlake such as beautiful parks and open spaces, recreation opportunities and programs for everyone.

The City of Southlake strategically plans each year with a balanced budget, directing resources to areas essential to the community’s wellbeing. We know these services and activities are important because our citizens tell us what matters to them through the biennial Citizen Satisfaction Survey, customer feedback and discussions with staff and elected leaders.

The city manager files the budget each year on August 15. The City Council provides direction, reviews the budget, and once voted on and approved, the City’s plans are funded for the next fiscal year from October 1 to September 30.

But planning for the budget begins long before that. Many times, plans for the next fiscal year begin in October. Each budget shows the financial plan for how tax dollars are being put to work and what services and programs citizens want prioritized for funding.

Together, with guidance from citizens, we can envision and create the best Southlake.

Want to learn more about the budget? Visit www.CityofSouthlake.com/AllAboutTheBudget.

AARP Tax Aide Returns to Offer Free Tax Filing

The Southlake Public Library will once again host AARP Tax Aide volunteers as they help low to moderate income and senior taxpayers file their Federal income taxes electronically.

Interested individuals can make an appointment with the Library for Thursday afternoons between February 1 and April 12, 2018. Appointments are available between 2:15 and 6:00 PM. Call the Library Reference Desk at 817-748-8247 to schedule an appointment for this service.

There are no age requirements and this is a free service.

The Southlake Police Department Warns of IRS Phone Scam

The Southlake Police Department is asking residents to be vigilant about phone and email scams that use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a lure. The scammers will attempt to contact individuals by phone or email. The fraudulent call goes something like this: “This is an officer from the Internal Revenue Service. We have been trying to reach you. This call is an official and final notice from the Internal Revenue Service. The reason for the call is to inform you that we have filed a lawsuit against you. For more information call us immediately.” 

At least one Southlake resident has reported receiving one of these fraudulent phone calls. They did the right thing by not returning the phone call and notifying the Southlake Police Department immediately.

It is important to remind our citizens that the IRS will never contact you by phone or email ‘out of the blue.’ If you owe money to the IRS they will send you a letter by certified mail. Police Chief James Brandon says, “Being informed is the best defense and we want to make every effort to protect our citizens from becoming victims of the IRS scam.”

Here are some important tips for citizens from the IRS:

  • The IRS will never initiate contact with individuals by phone or email to request personal or financial information.
  • The IRS will only initiate contact by certified mail.
  • The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access.
  • Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.
  • The IRS will never request immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. (*Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.)

In some cases, after threatening victims with jail time or a driver’s license revocation, scammers will often hang up and call back pretending to be from the local police department or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The caller ID often supports their claim because the scammers are able to mask the real number they are calling from with one that appears to be from the IRS.

Another big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and are urging immediate payment. The IRS wants to make it clear that this is not how they operate. They also urge individuals to hang up immediately and contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or the IRS at IRS.gov, phone 1.800.829.1040 or contact TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.

Tax Assistance at the Library

The Southlake Public Library is again hosting AARP Tax-Aide. Volunteers e-file tax returns free of charge. It is not necessary to be an AARP member to use the service and there are no age restrictions, but a reservation is required and all parties must be present.  The volunteers will be available Thursday afternoons starting February 5th and continuing until April 9thOne hour appointments are available at 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Please call the library at 817-748-8247 to schedule your reservation.

 The library also participates in the IRS Tax Forms Outlet Program.  We have limited quantities of the most common tax forms including the various 1040s, W-2s, and 1099-MISC. We can also print most other forms from irs.gov.

AARP Seeks Volunteers for Tax-Aide Program

Tax-AideAARP is seeking area volunteers to assist with the Tax-Aide program offered locally in libraries and seniors centers, including the Southlake Public Library and the Southlake Senior Activity Center. The Tax-Aide program prepares over 2.5 million returns annually with over 35,000 volunteers nationally. Volunteers are being actively recruited in Southlake, Grapevine, Colleyville, and Keller to assist with this popular program.

Volunteers should be comfortable with computers. Some personal tax experience in the past is a plus – but not a requirement. There are no age limits, meaning volunteers do not have to be retired or a member of AARP.   All necessary training, training materials, and computers are provided. The formal training is in January during a 4-day training class, which is a combination of tax laws and practical exercises (preparing returns). Prior to the January class, training materials are sent to each volunteer and they are encouraged to study and do practical exercises prior to the January class.   At the completion of training, each volunteer must pass a test for certification. The test, which is mainly preparing tax returns, can be done at the volunteer’s own pace and is open book so all of the reference materials are available.   AARP asks volunteers to work one 4-hour shift each week for the 11 weeks of the tax season. The shift is the same time, day, and location each week and an effort is made to match volunteers with the closest site to their home or work place. Veteran volunteers are close by new recruits offering encouragement and assistance to ensure accurate returns are prepared.  Returns are almost always electronically filed with the IRS and acceptance is received in a matter of a few hours.

To volunteer, applicants should contact Bill Taylor at (817) 217-4434 or wstaylor@aol.com.  Mr. Taylor will take some very basic contact information then enter the volunteer into the Tax-Aide system.  A district coordinator will contact the volunteer and provide additional details on the training and site locations.