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Local News

August 29, 2013

Public hearing addresses possible PN tax increase

PORT NECHES — Port Neches City Council held the first of two public hearings to discuss the proposed tax rate and the possibility of raising the rate in order to add two police officers to the department on Thursday.

Council spoke to a near empty room that included two residents, one of which posed numerous questions to Council regarding the increase.

The increase in the tax rate equates to an additional $14 per year on a home valued at $100,000 including exemptions, an additional $28 per year on a $200,000 home and a $42 increase on a $300,000 home. The City of Port Neches offers homestead exemptions as well as 65 and older exemptions.

Thomas Jordan, a retiree in the City, noticed that other taxing entities are also considering an increase including Jefferson County Drainage District No. 7 and Port Neches-Groves Independent School District, he said. And although the increase proposed by the City of Port Neches equates to a 1.7 cent increase on a $100,000 home — all of the increases add up.

Likening the City budget to a home budget he asked Council if they had considered making various reductions on line item expenses, adding that “some items may lend themselves to a decrease.”

City Manager Andrè Wimer explained the initial budget did not include a tax increase. It was only after discussion regarding the need for two additional officers and the cost associated such as salary and benefits did a rate increase come into conversation.

The current tax rate, which was also used to calculate the 2013-2014 budget, is .678066 per $100 valuation.  In order to provide funding for those two positions it is anticipated the tax rate would have to increase to .695478 per $100 assessed valuation.

Andrè explained that cutting funds to some areas such as equipment purchase could put the City in dire straights later down the road if purchases are deferred too long. The City did offer a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for employees as well as step increases.

Port Neches Police Department has two shifts, the day shift of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the night shift of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. PNPD has 18 total officers which includes 12 patrol officers. In addition, three officers are investigators and one is a narcotics officer assigned to the Narcotics Task Force. One is assistant chief and one is chief. Three officers work the night shift while there may be two working the day shift. Three officers work on weekends.

Councilmember Robert Arnold, a retired police officer with 29 years of service, is in favor of the tax increase to fund the two officer positions. He “spoke from experience” about how there were times when the police department was short staffed and other officers were out leaving him by himself. Detectives are sometimes called to assist if necessary but they are often busy taking statements, investigating or working with the District Attorney’s office.

“This is something that’s been needed to be done for a long while,” Arnold said. “Times are changing. There are more people up and around and it’s important to have a full staff day and night.”

Councilmembers Terry Schwertner and John Davenport are also in favor of the increase to fund the two police officer positions.

Because the amount exceeds the effective rate the city is required to conduct the two public hearings. The second public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 5 at city hall. Regardless of what tax rate Council ultimately decides to establish, the rate will be approved by Sept. 19. The newer, proposed rate is below the rollback rate.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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