Victoria taxpayers say they are happy with city tax rate

VICTORIA, Texas – The perception of some Victoria residents is our local taxes are higher compared to other cities similar to us in size and larger metropolitan areas nearby.

“I just feel safer, me coming from a big town,” said Chris Melendez, a Victoria resident and shop owner.

Melendez moved to Victoria from Houston four years ago after her husband took on a new job.

“The way you live your life here… it’s more family-oriented,” Melendez said. “I can I understand now why it does cost more to own a home here than it does in Houston.”

In Harris County, where Houston is located, there is no county tax rate but incorporated communities and other cities in the greater Houston area and Harris County are allowed to collect up to a 2 percent tax.

“Taxes aren’t the fun side of the business,” Melendez said. “It’s something that you don’t really think about and if you don’t budget wisely it can be something that burns a hole in your pocket as a business owner.”

Although she feels taxes are higher here in Victoria than living in the city of Houston, Melendez said she’s thankful for the high quality of service provided by public safety agencies.

Jim Cole, a Victoria resident, and attorney said he thinks there’s always room for improvement but he thinks the city has done a good job improving the roads.

“To have all the roads coming into Victoria converted into four-lane highways,” Cole said. “That’s pretty good.”

As a downtown Victoria business owner and resident, Cole said he’s excited about the newly-adopted master plan for downtown.

“We’re going to see changes made as a result of that,” Cole said.

The Peer City Identification Tool developed by a division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago identifies Biloxi, Mississippi, and Waco, Texas as cities similar to Victoria.

Population-wise Waco is larger than Victoria by about 47,000 residents but has a similar tax revenue structure and Biloxi has about 42,000 fewer residents than Victoria. The tax rate for Victoria and Waco totals 8.25 percent. Each city contributes 1.50 percent and respective counties provide .50 percent of the total tax rate.

Biloxi shares the county seat with Gulfport, which is about 30 minutes away, in Harrison County.  In the state of Mississippi, there is no county or city tax rate, just the state tax rate, which is set at 7 percent.

The median income in Victoria according to the Peer City Identification Tool is $63,000; in Waco, it’s $51,000 and in Biloxi, it’s $68,000.

Total projected revenues in Biloxi for 2021 are at about $57 million, in Victoria, it’s $146 million and in Waco, the projected 2022 revenues are set at $535 million.

“Casinos are a major source of revenue in Biloxi,” said Cecilia Dobbs Walton, a public affairs specialist for the city of Biloxi. “Mayor Gilich is working to have other resorts that are more family-oriented instead of just having casinos.”

Dobbs Walton said the city governments and the county work well together to beautify the coast. Services like water and trash are managed at a county level.

“We work together to make the coast beautiful and inviting for tourists,” Dobbs Walton said. “The people that are in leadership positions want to work together.”

In Waco, there is a similar cohesion between the city and county government bodies.

Kristina Collins, Sr. Vice President for Economic Development at Greater Waco Chamber, said the city and McClennan County work closely together on utility infrastructure and public safety.

“It’s unique compared to what happens in other places,” Collins said. “We have a really unique asset in the Brazos River.”

Collins also touted a homeownership program, NeighborWorks, that uses federal housing and urban development dollars to help people become homeowners in Waco.

Recently, the voters approved a $350 million bond package, the largest in the community’s history, to build multiple new campuses, including a new high school.

With a historic, four-year private university in its backyard, it’s no surprise education is a priority for the city of Waco, Collins said.

“We were all nervous going into that election but it goes to show that the citizens of this community really believe in great educational assets for its students.”

In Victoria, just two of the four Victoria ISD propositions were approved. One to provide teachers with raises and another to rebuild an elementary campus in the county, outside of city limits. The proposition items rejected were the rebuilding of Stroman Middle School, a historic campus on the southside of Victoria, and campus-wide renovations and repairs.

Cole said he was in support of all four propositions but he also wasn’t surprised by the outcome.

Melendez said as a business owner it’s important to have an attractive school district with new buildings to help draw in more residents, which can later translate into customers.

Nobody likes paying taxes, Cole said.

“But in order to have our community grow, I think they are pretty reasonable,” Cole said.

As far as improvements ago, Melendez said she hopes the city will work toward making downtown more accessible to people with disabilities.

Cole added he also believes the future success of the community is contingent on the growth of the University of Houston-Victoria campus.

Both are remaining optimistic.

The City of Victoria, the Victoria County Tax-Assessor Collector, and the Victoria County Judge were asked to provide insight on this topic but were unable to before publication.

Go here to learn more about the City of Victoria’s 2021-2022 budget.

Be sure to tune in Thursday night at 10 p.m. on Ch. 25 and KAVU-TV to see the broadcast of this 25 News Now Extra.