Howe raises property taxes and utility rates for next fiscal year

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HOWE, TX -- Residents in Howe will now have to pay higher property taxes and utility rates and though many are not happy with the decision city officials say it had to be done.

Since May, the Howe City Council has held several meetings to discuss how to fix the budget. Council members say it came down to either raising rates, cutting from the police force, or slashing benefits and though residents are happy city employees aren't losing their jobs they are upset they will be paying more.

Jennifer Smith has lived in Howe for eight years. She says the 5.50 percent city property tax increase and 20 percent increase on utilities -- that kick in October 1st -- will make it hard to feed her family.

"You know it could come to the point where we might have to move out of Howe," Smith said.

Smith says her utility bill has nearly doubled already in the past year.

"Just this month my bill was $182 dollars all together. A 20 percent increase, it's hard for us to just do the $182. A 20 percent increase would be very difficult for my family," Smith said.

Mayor Jeff Stanley says with sewage rates up four percent and an increase in costs for reserve water at Lake Lavon they had no choice but to take action.

"As much as we're having to pay out right now. We had a $225,000 dollar increase in our debt this year so we've got to cover that," Stanley said.

City Administrator Joe Shephard says Howe along with three other cities share a water line from Lake Lavon, and keeping up with surface water costs plays a major role in the city's struggle.

"That's about $90,000 dollars a year, and it's going to go up next year to probably $126,000, and our bond payments are also going to go up by about $120,000," Shephard said.

Shephard and Stanley say they have already cut costs where they could and raising taxes and utility rates is what it had to come down to to keep the city running.

"We've reduced our work force by 33 percent. None of the city employees have received a raise in over three years," Shephard said.

"All the council, several of the employees, all of us live here so we're also feeling this we all pay the same thing," Stanley said.

Stanley says the only way for these increases to go down is if the town starts to see growth in the near future.

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