The Abilene City Council choose to order a bond election Nov. 8 for a new fire station, but chose to move a bond vote for new recreation centers and a walking trail to the next city election in May.
The council also approved its revised and upcoming fiscal year budgets, setting a tax rate of 76.21 per $100 of property value, effectively a 7.1% increase in the tax rate from the previous year.
The fire station is an $8 million project and is one that requires immediate consideration, City Manager Robert Hanna told the council.
The council chose to move consideration of $32 million in other projects, including replacements for the G.V. Daniels and Cesar Chavez recreation centers, to a later date, citing a need for community education.
"We can take time on the rec centers and the walking trail to be able to meet with groups in the community and have a better information packet available on what we're asking voters to consider," Councilman Shane Price said.
Councilwoman Donna Albus said that renovations were planned for what became The Grace Museum, time was needed to help people understand the concept and the need.
Similarly, "if you want those to succeed, you really need to give it time and education," she said of the quality of life package.
Both propositions were recommended by a committee appointed to study a limited set of bond possibilities.
Fire calls rising in area
The new fire station would be located on FM 707, reflecting growth in south Abilene.
"If you look at the response to calls associated with this particular area, the heart of the argument is that you can take as long as eight minutes to get to this side of town, even though you have a station No. 8 , which is just off of Buffalo Gap Road," Hanna said.
The Abilene Fire Department has seen an increase of more than 4,000 responses in the area over a five-year period.
The project proposal is for a 12,000-14,000-square-foot building, with four double-sized apparatus bays, eight to 10 bedrooms and offices on three acres of city-owned property.
The budget for the project is around $7.7 million.
Yearly costs for personnel, not included in the bond, could top out at $1 million, depending on staffing.
Funds for a new engine for the proposed station are set aside and have been placed in the city's fire apparatus fund, about $1 million, taken from the city's minor improvement fund.
Other business ...
In addition to several lengthy discussions about zoning, the council also:
∎ Approved the revised budget for the current fiscal year, as well as the budget, tax rate and fees for the upcoming fiscal year.
The revised fiscal year budget is $303.17 million, while the budget for the next fiscal is $315.56 million.
The budget raises more total property taxes than last year's by $4.8 million, an 8.9% increase.
Of that, $1.25 million is tax revenue raised from new property added to the tax rolls.
The budget is slightly revised from the $316.7 million approved in first reading by the council July 27, modified by an agreement approved by the council to let ASM Global manage operations at the Abilene Convention Center.
The tax rate is 76.21 per $100 of property value, made up of 59.88 cents maintenance and operations and 16.33 cents for interest and sinking.
The current year's tax rate is 78.51 cents per $100 of value.
Fiscal year 2023's "new-new-revenue" tax rate, which would have raised the same amount as the previous year, is 71.15 cents per $100 of value.
The city's schedule of fees includes an increase in the monthly street maintenance fees collected from residential and commercial customers.
The latter increases bump residential fees up from $6.75 to $8.75 for single-person homes, $6 per month to $8 per month for multifamily homes, and increases commercial fees throughout the six levels currently charged by $20 per month.
∎ Voted to put on the Nov. 8 ballot a special election whether to declare Abilene a "sanctuary city for the unborn."
The ordinance required a months-long petition drive to collect at least 6,483 signatures, equal to 10% of qualified voters as of the city's municipal election in May 2021.
The "Declarations" portion of the ordinance states Abilene "to be a Sanctuary City for the Unborn" and that abortion is "at all times and all stages of pregnancy to be declared to be an act of murder unless the mother's life is in danger."
It declares abortion-inducing drugs as "contraband," with possession of them within the city limits to be unlawful. It also "urges the district attorneys of Taylor and Jones counties to investigate and prosecute any individual or organization that 'furnishes the means for procuring' an elective abortion or otherwise aids or abets" such.
The election also will have six amendments to the city's charter.
Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Abilene City Council moves Fire Station No. 9 bond to November vote