City of Nacogdoches considering 10 percent hike in water, sewer rates

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - About a half an hour ago, the Nacogdoches City Council sat down to hear a presentation on its annual audit. The city is in good standing, but the news is only confirming what city leaders already know. Revenue is declining across the board.

The Nacogdoches Finance Department hasn't been the bearer of good news lately. It's no reflection on Pam Curbow, the new finance director. She just calls it like it is.

"Sales tax," Curbow said with a sigh. "It's been very discouraging."

For the last nine months, Nacogdoches sales tax has declined steadily. City leaders were hopeful holiday sales would be the saving grace.

"While we were down, it was almost flat, just within a few thousand dollars of Christmas shopping last year," Curbow said.

Although it was promising, it was not at the level the city and its retailers need and want.

"We've had 8 and 9 percent drops. In the last few months we've had 3 and 4 percent, so maybe we're on the way back up," Curbow said. "I'm hopeful."

The decline can also be seen in Nacogdoches' hospitality industry. Hotel tax revenue declined about $376,000 in 2013.

"It was a significant drop, and I would just have to totally say it's going to have to be a lot of oil and gas because hotels were full, seven days a week," Curbow said. "It wasn't just a weekend deal."

So how is the city coping? It's not filling vacant positions, and it's hiring people at lower salaries to replace retirees. Department directors manage on tight budgets. The current budget is conservative, but capital improvements on sewer and water wells continue.

And Curbow is keeping a close watch on state trends.

"Dallas-Ft. Worth area, of course, their economy has turned around," Curbow said. "And we're just a little behind and we're hopeful in the next few months, maybe, we will see that locally."

City leaders say the economy was factored in when setting tax rates and fees for this year's budget. At the same time, the city is considering tonight to raise the water and sewer rates to customers by 10 percent.

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