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Ovilla Council sets budget, tax increase

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GEORGIA FITZHUGH
The Ellis County Press

OVILLA - Ovilla City Council set the 2004 city budget and approved a tax increase on Sept. 22 at its regular meeting.

The tax rate for 2004 fiscal year was set at .66748 cents per $100 of assessed value, an increase from the 2002-2003 rate of . 55856.

Part of the tax rate, the portion for debt service, was set by law at .239145.

The maintenance and operations portion of the tax rate was set at .427603. The city's taxable value was $219,893,549, about 1.4 percent more than last year's taxable value, according to the city.

No citizens spoke at the public hearing on the budget, which was required by law.

Several residents had aired their questions and complaints about the budget at the last council meeting on Sept. 8.

Bob and Barbara Betik of Ovilla addressed the council during the hearing.

'Our taxes continue to increase. We've been hit by the water bill and also by the Red Oak ISD and their new buildings. We're seeking some tax relief for citizens,' Barbara Betik noted.

George Mulholland questioned why certain items were not included in the budget, and reminded the council residents did not vote on the water system project.

Dale Helms urged residents to volunteer to help cut some of the city's expenses.

'Mow a park, pick up some trash. Our volunteer firefighters bust their butts every day, but most of the people don't do a thing,' he said.

Bob Betik urged the council to re-examine the proposed city budget. 'Let's look at how we can cut spending. We need some creative solutions; let's see how we can pinch those pennies,' he said.

Betik noted there was no fine for false burglar alarm calls and suggested a fine could be initiated.

Betik asked the council to consider entering an ambulance contract with East Texas Medical Center, instead of the City of Midlothian ambulance service.

'There's $30,000 savings a year if we go with East Texas Medical Center,' Betik said.

The council had discussed ambulance contracts at a recent budget workshop. The cost of the East Texas Medical Center ambulance contract is approximately $15,900 a year. The cost for the Midlothian ambulance service is $42,000 a year.

The council had chosen to contract with Midlothian after lengthy consideration of the advantages and disadvantages during the budget workshop.

The quick response time, level of medical technology, and a 27-year history of good service were the deciding factors for the choice of the City of Midlothian ambulance service.

City Administrator Scott Campbell reviewed the budget for the council on Sept. 22, mentioning the main items which had increased this year.

'The city will spend 2.2 million dollars in 2004 to make connections to the Dallas Water Utilities,' Campbell said.

Available Water Capital Improvement funds as of Aug. 31, 2003 amounted to $6,699,960, according to city documents.

Employees' health insurance premiums had increased and cost about $2,200 more. The budget included a consultant's fee of $3,000 for the purpose of improving ordinances concerning building standards in historic districts.

The police department budget included $17,500 for a lease-purchase on a new squad car to replace the chief's car which has more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. A wall cage for the police property room costing $1,700 was also in the police department's budget.

Ovilla's ambulance service contract was another item which increased in the budget. An extension of the contract with Midlothian ambulance service for one year will cost Ovilla $46,200, an increase of $4,200.

In addition, the services of a medical controller, a doctor who will advise emergency medical technicians about medications, will cost the city $2,000. The service is required by law. Ovilla had received this service free in the past.

Both fire and police radio dispatch service will be improved by the installation of a receiver on top of the Sardis-Lone Elm Water System tower. The budget included $2,500 for this receiver.

In the public works budget, $16,000 more was earmarked for street overlay, $7,000 more was set aside for sewer lift station improvements.

Councilman Mike Davis pointed out the debt service portion of the tax rate will not increase in the future, though all the councilmen acknowledged the maintenance and operations portion could increase.

Councilman Ralph Hall and Councilman Floyd Elkins complimented Campbell on his work on the budget.

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