Editors Note: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated that Julie Becker and Robert Haxton claimed that the “city tax rate” increased by 20 percent. The stated that the total amount of taxes collected by the city increased by 20 percent, while the “city tax rate” increased by about 9 percent.
With City Elections coming up in Dallas County on Tuesday, Nov. 7, cities have been holding forums, allowing residents to get a chance to know where the candidates in their cities stand on the local issues. Dallas Center held theirs on Thursday, Oct. 19 at Memorial Hall.
Dallas Center has two candidates running for mayor and three candidates running for two seats on the City Council. The mayor candidates are the incumbent Michael Kidd, and his challenger, Julie Becker, while the Council candidates are the incumbents, Curt Pion and David Bagby, and the challenger, Robert Haxton.
The event started out with the City Council candidates answering questions that were submitted by attendees on the event and asked by the moderators, current Dallas County Treasurer and former Dallas Center Mayor, Mitch Hambleton and for Dallas Center Mayor and City Councilman, Daniel Willrich with the Mayor candidates following.
“One of the main topics of discussion revolved around taxes. Haxton and Becker stressed that the amount of tax dollars collected by the city was 20 percent higher than the previous year.”
“The bottom line is, last year the city took it 880,000 (dollars). This year they took in $1,060,000… That’s where that 20 percent came from,” Haxton said. “So it’s not false, it’s not misleading. That’s the tax people are paying. You can say it’s from the rate, you can say it’s from this, or this, but you’re paying 20 percent more on average.”
The incumbents state that the 20 percent increase, is misleading though. Mayor Kidd mentioned that a part of that 20 percent increase in tax revenue is that new people are coming to town and adding to the tax base as well as the Dallas Center-Grimes School District increasing their rate by nearly 5 percent.
Pion said that the tax rate went up about 9 percent in Dallas Center in order to pay for their stormwater project that is currently underway.
“The statements made by candidates that your taxes went up by 20 percent are absolutely false,” Pion said.
“That entire increase is due to the stormwater project. We decreased, as a council, everything that was non-debt levy, it went down, so the only thing that went up is storm water.”
Bagby said that they needed to get the stormwater project done, finally. He said that the can’s been kicked down the road for 15, 20 years” on the stormwater project.
“I understand that it’s burdensome on people with a fixed income,” Bagby said. “I totally understand that. Our goal is never to go around and just start jacking up taxes on people, but we have to keep the city viable, we have to keep the city going forward.”
One of the questions that was posed to Becker was what city services she would consider cutting to keep the tax rate low while still being able to pay for the stormwater project.
“The first city service I would probably look at cutting is our trail artwork that cost city taxpayers $44,000 this year,” Becker said. “If you divide $44,000 by 600 homes in this community, you get roughly $73 per home. That’s a lot of tax money going to trail art that could be going to city services.”
She said, however, that before cutting any city services, she would look at all expenditures to determine what is “unnecessary spending.”
When asked about quality of life, Kidd mentioned the trail art projects as something that draws people to the community.
Kidd stated that he supports the budget they’ve created and they took into account what the members of the community said they wanted in terms of city services and projects. He also showed support for the city staff.
“We’ve got folks in city hall, we have folks in the garage at public works and the library, and those folks all do a good job for our community, so we need to appreciate those people and give those people the tools they need to do the job for us,” Kidd said. “I wouldn’t be cutting those services.”
When it comes to residential tax abatements, Haxton says he is opposed and would vote to end them if he were elected. Pion said that he favors them and would even be in favor of using them for commercial properties as well.
“Commercial property taxes are coming down, the state is bringing those down, and that’s a concern for cities who already have existing large pools of commercial development,” Pion said. “It’s a concern for us, not as significant, but if that’s something we can do to bring in more on the commercial, light industrial side, I am all for investigating those things.
“It helps support the community. People can live here and work here, ride their bike to work, that sort of thing. That would be awesome. If I didn’t have to leave town, I wouldn’t, but I do.”
Bagby agreed with Pion, saying he believes they are beneficial to the community and would like to see a business park along Highway 44.
“I understand that we’re an ag community, and a very strong ag community but you can’t throw all your [eggs into one basket],” Bagby said.
“As far as we look at them, just make sure we’re making wise decisions, obviously you just don’t throw everything out there at them, you have to be smart about doing it and control it.”