The adoption of the tax rate at $0.017798 per $100 in property value will equate to an annual tax payment of $24 for the average homestead. This is an increase of $1.10 over the approximate $22.90 paid annually by the average homeowner last year. SARA is authorized by the State Legislature to collect an ad valorem tax at a maximum of $0.02 per $100 of assessed value. The tax rate must be set at the same rate throughout SARA’s four-county district including Bexar, Wilson, Karnes and Goliad counties and may only be used for planning and operations and maintenance activities.
The 2013 tax rate will generate an additional $2 million in revenue, of which $1.1 million will fund the increase in SARA’s FY 14 general fund budget associated with the new operations and maintenance costs for the eight-mile Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation project in Bexar County. The remaining $900,000 in added revenue will fund various water quality, flood control and park programs throughout the basin which are also supported through SARA’s tax revenues.
In June, SARA’s Board of Directors approved a budget that included a higher projected tax of $0.018431. However, when the final taxable valuations for SARA’s four-county district of Bexar, Wilson, Karnes and Goliad Counties were released in July, an overall increase in taxable valuations of 8.77% was reported. The higher than anticipated taxable valuations allowed SARA’s staff to recommend a lower tax rate than was projected in June.
“Managing the impact of increases in the tax rate is the top priority for the Board of Directors,” said Gaylon Oehlke, Chairman of the Board. “This lower tax rate at the increased property valuations generates the revenues needed to meet the increased cost for the Mission Reach maintenance while continuing to oversee vital water quality and flood mitigation projects throughout the San Antonio River Watershed.”
“Taxpayers are like our shareholders,” said Suzanne Scott, SARA General Manager. “They expect that the dollars they pay to SARA are invested wisely and used for the intended purpose of protecting and enhancing the watershed. Our job is to make sure that we give the best return for all who invest in SARA through the quality of services we provide and in our effective stewardship of these valuable public funds.”
In addition to funding SARA’s operations and maintenance responsibilities, the approved budget allows SARA to continue raising awareness about sustainability issues, including educating the community about how land use and development planning can be improved to minimize flooding and remove pollution before it reaches the river and its tributaries. SARA’s budget also includes support for programs and projects which address flood risk management (i.e. flood control) and water quality concerns throughout the agency’s four-county district. Funding to expand recreational and science-based educational opportunities throughout the district is also included in the budget in order to improve the quality of life for area residents and to educate citizens of all ages about how their actions impact surface water quality and about what they can do to improve surface water quality.
A summary of the fiscal year 2013/14 total budget of $75.8 million for each of SARA’s five service areas is as follows: Flood Control - $33.2 million; Water Quality - $2.1 million; Water Resources - $0.9 million; Utilities - $28.2 million; and Park Services - $11.4 million. The fiscal year 2013/14 budget is available for review at www.sara-tx.org. SARA’s fiscal year began July 1, 2013 and runs through June 30, 2014.