By David Tuma, Publisher
Belton continues to grow. That growth adds to the value of the tax rolls. You either decline, like Detroit, or move forward. Nothing stays the same. Belton’s tax roll value will increase almost $74-million from 2017-18. Belton is over the $1.4-billion mark and moving ever so close to $1.5-billion in property values. Belton’s tax value that is taxable will increase over the 1-billion mark for the first time.
With Belton businesses struggling through the recession of the 1980’s the tax rate reached an all-time high of $0.823 in 1995. Not a lot of retail stores were downtown in 1996. The growth down South Main was just a dream. Parks were few and far between. No walking trail along Nolan Creek.
Still to this day, Belton has no public pool or tennis courts. Let there be no doubt, Belton has turned the corner as both a place to shop and a place that has nice things to do after 5 p.m. Since those dark days in the mid-1990’s, Belton’s tax rolls have increased 20-percent.
Belton’s proposed tax rate of $0.655 is the same as years before. Belton without question, is one of the best places to live in Central Texas. Belton’s tax rate is lower than Killeen, Temple, Heights and Cove. The Belton Independent School Districts double-digit tax increase this year will affect that somewhat. Good schools cost money.
Belton’s value increases have come from business investment in the community and new houses. People want to live in Belton and businesses are constantly looking for ways to find a building or property to build here. Belton Family Dental in the old HEB shopping center is the latest investment in the community. Owner Jay Littlefield grew up in Gatesville and built a fine facility here in town.
TIRZ, a tax reinvestment part of the City of Belton’s ability to provide infrastructure has a big upcoming year planned. They will fund a study for 6th Ave. ($100,000), South Belton Trail improvements ($300,000) and Southwest traffic study ($450,000) this year. These funds come from taxes collected from business. Amount planned to be spent by TIRZ in 2018 is $1.4 million.
To understand the importance of shopping local and supporting the businesses in your community, you only have to look at TIRZ funding. When TIRZ was formed in 2005-06, the funding was around $100,000. Those funds have increased to $1.28 million a year in 2018.
One of the exciting proposed projects is taking the Hike and Bike Trail underneath IH-35 and connecting with Holland Road. This will connect the trail system from Belton High School to the Holland Road area. Combined with the proposed 6th Ave future improvements this will totally transform the community. Having two major entrances to the community and a trail system few communities could even dream about is a game changer.
The Southwest Traffic Study is a major effort by the city to deal with the growth of South Belton, that is coming. Connell Street will be reconstructed, Huey Drive will be extended eastward to IH-35. Southwest Parkway will be extended north to W. Ave. O. Laila Lane will be built connecting the Loop 121 to IH-35. This will help traffic flow in the area enclosed by Loop 121, IH-35 and W. Ave O. Belton controls the water in this area. That is major for future growth in terms of housing. A potential bond issue for 2019 is in the planning stages. 6th Ave. is being planned for renovation. Sidewalks along both sides in the same Belton style of décor and lighting will make 6th Ave dazzle. Utilities will be taken underground making this a major gateway into the community.
Belton is closing in on a four-year plan on street maintenance. This year funding could be around $731,000. Belton’s overall budget is proposed at $13,405,000 with a fund balance of $4.9 million. This figure is $1.6 million over the minimum needed. In other words, the city is in good financial standing in both planning for the future and maintaining a standard for future community leaders and city administrators.
Sales tax is proposed at $3,370,000 of the 2018 budget. This is 24 percent of the entire budget. No recession is in site but a major economic downturn could be painful. Business taxes are harder to estimate because the property taxes are not separated. They generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 34 percent of the entire budget. Bell County is looking to outsource ambulance service to an out of county organization. Belton generates $1.2 million in fees related to keeping the public safe in the central part of Bell County.
“The council is starting to study capital improvements through a capital improvements committee. This committee will make recommendations for a possible 2019 bond election. Infrastructure improvements are a big deal for future growth development. Just look at all the growth along Sparta Road over the past few years,” said Public Information Officer Paul Romer.
Belton controls the water in the land area leading to Stillhouse Hollow Lake. This area is a huge growth are for Belton-Temple. The two communities are locked together by schools, lake and river. Together they are a huge growth area between Waco and Austin. Belton High School with 3,200 students isn’t just anybody state wide. They are one of the big boys in terms of athletes and students.
Doesn’t hurt that Belton is where the Crusaders play football in fall either.