After two and a half hours of discussion at the proposed general fund budget workshop Tuesday night, the Van Alstyne City Council made no firm decisions that would allow for the mandated public hearing necessary, which includes any proposed increases in property tax rate. The motion was made to proceed regarding a proposed effective tax rate of 0.663918 to property tax. The tax rate has been 0.612639 for four years.
“This will allow the city to keep up with the current level of services the city is providing,” Mayor Larry Cooper said.
The city runs on a fiscal year from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
All Van Alstyne City Council members and Cooper were present, along with department heads, the city attorney, city engineers and City Manager Frank Baker.
The budget items were posted on a lighted screen for the Council and the public to see, and as the first combined departmental numbers were displayed, Baker began explaining those figures. He said the majority of the city's income comes through franchise, sales, property taxes and building permits. The estimate shows that the city can expect an increase in a sales tax revenue of $115,000 over the current year. Cooper said this is an estimated amount.
As expected, salaries comprise the bulk of the expense budget, with a proposed 2017-2018 amount of about $380,600, with another $29,400 added as payroll taxes and $60,400 to be spent on health insurance.
Contracted services could increase $40,000 over the 2017 budget. Legal expenses are expected to increase $33,000 over the current fiscal year's amount, for a proposed 2017-18 amount of $100,000.
In all, the proposed budget shows a decrease in expenses of about $60,000.
Council member Suzon Crowell questioned many of the expenses, asking for explanation or clarification. Council member Teddie Ann Salmon also asked questions. The three others, Lee Thomas, Brad Clough, and Robert Jaska, did not comment often during this portion of the night's lengthy multi-meeting that included the budget workshop, a zoning board of adjustments session, the regular city council meeting and an executive session.
Crowell said that it appears the estimates show a 10 percent increase in revenues, or $200,000, over the current budget. She requested information on just how that was to be spent. In the administrative budget, the city is asking for the addition of one person in City Hall, with the responsibility of handling building permits. Currently, the City Hall staff consists of Baker, a finance clerk, administrative assistant, utility billing clerk and city clerk.
There was discussion on if revenues would be better used to increase the police department staffing than city hall staffing. No decisions were made. After the meeting, Jaska said the Council is looking at ways to reduce administrative costs.
The Council set a time and date of 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, for another special called meeting, this one to set the tax rate, and welcomes the public's input at that meeting.
There were more questions regarding proposed budget items for the City Library, Public Works, first responders, parks and almost all city departments.
“The city believes the public is demanding better services in our administrative branch,” Cooper said after the meeting. “And we are trying to comply and to keep up with the growth of the city. We are going to have to provide help and services to those new builders, businesses, and new residents.”
This portion of the meeting ended at 8:36 p.m.