Bastrop News

Delving into a budget (City Council)

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By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer

City Manager Mike Talbot had a precise summation during a special meeting Tuesday night for items he says are crucial as the budget for fiscal year 2015-16 is being prepared. His remarks equated to…“If we don’t take care of certain projects now – it will cost more later.” Much of that has to do with streets getting attention (financially speaking) that is overdue, several city officials – and the Council – have concurred in previous discussions.

Among some of the other items that Talbot is recommending get priority budgeting for 2015-16 are: ‘shop improvements’ for the Public Works Dept, plus a much-needed dump truck for in-house street work; fixing up Fisherman’s Park restrooms; three police patrol vehicles, a vehicle for the IT director and phone-system upgrade.

“We have not been doing justice to our streets,” Talbot declared. That comment came well into the meeting after Council member Gary Schiff asked some pointed questions about overall budget development and priorities. Schiff said he just wants to make sure that the City is “making the very very very best use of funds” and that whatever budget is approved is “justifiable to (our) constituency.” (As for procedure, Talbot recommends an overall budget to the Council each year after seeking input from city department heads; then the Council gives final approval of the budget by a vote. The budget year for the City runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 of the following year.)

The special budget workshop meeting – open to the public – was listed on the agenda as “a review and discussion of all funds, including revenues and expenditures.” Talbot also presented several varied funding options involving extensive street work, water/wastewater, and police facilities including a 911-dispatching center. Those options, if approved, could potentially add additional cents to the tax rate. But those items could also possibly be covered – without, or with less of a tax hike – through an increase in the overall total of property valuations (residential and commercial) and the subsequent taxes collected. As for the options Talbot presented, He added “all water and sewer options are consistent throughout the all the options.”

Talbot said the tax roll valuation will “probably not” be ready until July 27 or so. The tax rate for Fiscal Year 2015 was lowered two cents – to 56.4 cents per $100 property valuation by the previous Council, after having been 58.4 cents for the preceding three fiscal years.

One good aspect going into budget discussions for Fiscal year 2015-16 is that the “ending” fund balance for the city for Fiscal Year 2014-15 is projected to be $4.56 million (there are two months to go), which is over a million dollars more than the city had previously projected. But Schiff said the two main items that are – for now – “unknown in this equation” are “the amount of taxable property” and “we don’t know what the sales tax will look like.”

New City Secretary Introduced: Tablot announced to the public the hiring of a new City Secretary – Ann Franklin – after the Council came out executive session. Franklin, who was introduced to the audience, has been Austin’s City Clerk for the last eight years. “Ann has 30 years of experience in multiple facets of the public sector, and has held a number of supportive and leadership positions throughout her career,” Talbot said. Franklin’s education background includes: Associates of Science in Business Administration from Austin Community College; and a Bachelor of Business Management degree, from LeTourneau University in Longview, Tx.

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