Special Meeting of City Council Addresses Budget Issues

CityHall

On September 2, the Pearland City Council held a Special Meeting (often referred to as “Town Hall” meetings) in which residents were encouraged to come forward to speak to City Council (Tony Carbone, Scott Sherman, Keith Ordeneaux, Gary Moore and Greg Hill), Mayor Reid and City Manager Clay Pearson about their thoughts on lingering budget issues for the 2015 Fiscal Year (FY).

The first order of business was the proposed 2014 Tax Rate for the 2014-2015 Budget. Council explained that the Tax Rate is split into two different pieces: Operating and Debt Service. The proposed increase will affect ONLY the Operating Tax Rate and is $0.2221, which is an increase of .0070 from the current year. The Debt Service rate stands at $0.4900. This yields a proposed Tax Rate of $0.7121, which currently stands at $0.7051.

The second order of business was to discuss changes made to the Fiscal Year 2015 (which begins October 1) budget filing, due to the Budget Workshop Process. The Budget as proposed stands at $66,910,350. Proposed changes from the workshop process includes $260,000.00 in reductions of recurring expenses and $25,578 in non-recurring expenses. The potential sources of this total of approximately $285, 500.00 include six (6) full-time General Fund positions, the full merger of the Fire and EMS Departments, landscape contract increases, operating expenditures of new parks coming to fruition in 2015 (Max Road, Shadow Creek Ranch, Centennial Park), replacement of the City’s Enterprise Resource Planning/Management system (Information Technology) and a pavement/sidewalk rehabilitation initiative. Revenues may also be generated from proposed increases in the Water/Sewer Fund of 4.63%. This increase breaks down (residentially) to approximately $4.00 more per month for households that use 8,000 –  10,000 gallons of water monthly. Households using less than 2,000 gallons per month will see no increase. The increase for Commercial users will be higher.

The third order of business was to review changes to the Budget from the initially-filed Budget of July, 2014. They consist of:

  • Reduction of the Operating & Maintenance (O&M) component of the Tax Rate from $0.2251 to $0.2221;
  • Lowering the Debt Service tax rate from $0.4950 to $0.4900;
  • Water/Sewer Fund adjustment of $36,132;
  • Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) changes related to inter-fund transfers and funding related to Shadow Creek Ranch Park, lift station projects,and lowering spending on Hillhouse Annex Phase II;
  • Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) funding added; and
  • Removal of an Animal Control study from the City-Wide Donation Fund

The Council then moved on to Topics for Discussion that are still under consideration for the FY 2015 Budget:

  • Police Expenditures (Personnel)
  • Natatorium HVAC Repair/Replacement
  • City Hall Renovations

Council is considering one of three options to satisfy the City’s need for more Police Personnel:

  1. Promoting two (2) Sergeants/Hiring two (2) Officers: $342,000 (Recurring and Non-Recurring Expenses);
  2. Promoting two (2) Sergeants/Hiring three (3) Officers: $433,000 (Recurring and Non-Recurring Expenses);
  3. Promoting two (2) Sergeants/Hiring four (4) Officers: $599,000 (Recurring and Non-Recurring Expenses)

The current Proposed Budget includes promotion of one (1) existing Officer to Sergeant. Police Sergeants are the main supervisory positions over patrol squads, of which Pearland currently has five (5) each for day and night shifts. They are divided into Districts A, B, C, D and E.

Council is also considering the Public Works Department’s need to remove and replace of deficient sections of sidewalks that have been displaced mainly by soil expansion and contraction. There are currently 563 open work requests from citizens and businesses for sidewalk repair dating back to 2009. The request is for $1.1 million, which would result in about 10 miles of sidewalk rehabilitation.

The four-year-old Natatorium suffered HVAC failures on August 19 and is currently dependent on a rented carrier unit. The City will be adding $500,000 to the General Fund Contingency to be available for unit repair or replacement. An engineering study is currently underway to determine possible solutions, including any repairs that may be made under warranty.

Pearland City Hall was constructed in 1986. A major renovation to what is referred to as the City Hall Complex (includes Community Center) has been in planning stages for several years. Recently, $400,000 in allocations for Certificates of Obligation were approved to fund studies and the estimation of design cost, which total $4.1 million. This amount falls within the construction budget approved in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

No Executive Decisions were made at this meeting. The next Public Hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 8, 2014 at 6:30pm at City Hall (3519 Liberty Drive). Residents are encouraged to attend and lend their voices to assist Mayor Reid, City Manager Pearson and City Council in completing the FY 2015 Budget.

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