The Mansfield City Council this week approved the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget that can be summed up by three distinctive points: a two-cent tax rate decrease, a 10 percent homestead exemption and expansion of the critical city services residents rely on.
The council approved the budget and tax rate following a public hearing held Aug. 31 with ordinance readings on Sept. 11, 14 and 15.
“We as a council have been working toward providing property tax relief to our residents for the last several years,” said Mayor David Cook. “We made it a priority and with this year’s budget we have accomplished that goal, while also providing for additional public safety personnel and new programs and services for the community.
“This is my 13th budget, and I can confidently say this is the best budget I’ve seen in the 13 budget cycles that I have been on Council, with approximately $4.4 million being returned to the taxpayers of Mansfield,” Cook said. “I give credit to staff for bringing this balanced budget forward, for listening to council’s concerns and addressing the needs of our city, which includes our residents and our entire employee organization.”
Newly-appointed City Manager Joe Smolinski gave a public presentation Aug. 31 with some of the details in the $183.3 million proposed budget ordinance. In addition to the tax rate reduction and homestead exemption, the FY21 budget includes five new positions (four police officers, one firefighter), development of WiFi in historic downtown and selected parks, investment in civic engagement and much-needed capital equipment.
Among the facility improvements in FY21 are park improvements, the opening of Fire Station No. 5, expansion of the Mansfield Public Library, a joint training facility for police and fire and modifications to the Mansfield Law Enforcement Center.
Budget highlights for city operations include an up to five percent merit increase for city employees, a review of the city’s employee health insurance plan, the reduction in the operational costs of the jail and the reorganization of legal services.
The proposed budget also provides for the development of two new programs dealing with public transparency and civic engagement. The Department of Public Records and Transparency will focus on the management of the city’s records and coordination of open records requests. Neighborhood Services will coordinate multi-departmental programs and outreach designed to enhance the quality of life for residents including a neighborhood leadership program and a civic academy. The award-winning and highly successful Mansfield Volunteer Program will be part of the Neighborhood Services effort.
The breakdown of proposed expenditures in the general fund budget include:
The two-cent tax reduction brings the city’s rate to 69 cents per $100 valuation. The breakdown of the rate is 46 cents for operations and maintenance and 23 cents for debt service for a total of 69 cents.
The City Council on June 22 approved a 10 percent homestead exemption for Mansfield homeowners, which is the first time in history that the city has provided a homestead exemption to residents.
The homestead exemption allows homeowners to save on property taxes by allowing them to exclude a portion of their home’s value from assessment. With a 10 percent homestead exemption, Mansfield residents will pay taxes on only 90 percent of the value of their primary residence as assessed by the Tarrant County, Johnson County or Ellis County appraisal districts.
At the Sept. 14 meeting, Smolinski also announced that Fitch Ratings, one of the nation’s top bond rating agencies, has upgraded the City of Mansfield’s water and sewer system revenue bonds from AA to AA+ as well as the drainage utility system revenue bonds to AAA from AA, citing the systems' strong revenue growth and low operating risk.
Fitch assigned the Standalone Credit Profile (SCP) of the water and sewer system at AAA, upgrading approximately $34.3 million in revenue bonds. The same was issued for $2.7 million in drainage utility system revenue bonds.
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.