This blog is a short summary of the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, Feb. 24, and is not the official minutes. Changes made to specific items will be recorded in the minutes, which will be available in approximately two weeks.
Workshop Meeting Highlights
FY11 Budget Update
Staff provided an update of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, reporting that national economic conditions have been felt locally, resulting in lower sales tax revenues and slower building activity. Lower revenues resulted in budget reductions of $5.5 million city-wide over the last three years. The city has streamlined processes and is performing services with fewer resources, although some service level increases were implemented in publicsafety. The five-year financial forecast for revenues includes lowered revenue estimates, lowered sales tax estimates and includes property tax rate increases. The expenditure forecast includes limited new expenditures, a limited pay plan and acknowledged increased health care costs. Staff said additional revenue or additional expenditure reductions will be needed and that additional budget and service level reductions may also be required.
First quarter figures show that revenues are tracking close to staff budget estimates — sales tax is 4 percent higher, licenses and permits are 11 percent lower, investment income is 6 percent higher, and fines, penalties and other charges are 6 percent higher. Expenditures are tracking slightly lower than the budget, mainly due to vacant positions being held open and overtime reduced. The Electric Fund revenues are lower than estimated. Expenditures reflect that operations are below budget and purchased power is close to the budget, due to the impact of the rolling brown outs in early February. The Water, Wastewater and Sanitation Funds also shows overall revenues a little higher than forecast. Staff is watching fuel costs closely. Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenues are higher, and expenditures indicate seasonal fluctuations. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Kersten said the city must be cautious regarding the economic recovery and that the state budget problems could have an impact. The first quarter was on target, but the Fiscal Year 2012 budget process will be challenging.
Concessions and Aquatics Audit
The city’s internal auditor presented the Aquatics Audit and Concessions Audit, which were selected because they are revenue generating programs with high risk and high costs. The aquatics audit identified the necessity of evaluating the staffing levels, especially when the pools are closed. This could possibly save $250,000 per year. However, the advantage of having seasonal workers is to avoid overtime costs. The Concessions Audit scope included best practices, cash handling and operations, many of which have already been addressed.
VOTE: The council voted unanimously (7-0) to implement the recommendations in both the Concessions and Aquatics Audits.
Future Workshop Items
• Mayor Nancy Berry requested an item to look at the process for how the city re-zones property. There was a consensus to place this on a future agenda.
• Council Member Jess Fields requested an overview of the city’s various commercial building codes and also wanted to consider the banner ordinance and fees. There was no consensus.
• Council Member Dave Ruesink wanted to discuss living billboards and how they are regulated. City Manager David Neeley said staff would prepare a report for Ruesink.
Executive Session Actions
Council emerged from executive session and voted unanimously (7-0) to create a municipal management district to be governed by the cities of College Station and Bryan in the proposed biomedical corridor region. This could include a revenue sharing agreement with the City of Bryan and special legislation to address development concerns in the area, and could include resolving the provision of water and sewer services to the area.
Regular Meeting Highlights
The council voted unanimously to approve eight consent agenda items, then considered the other five items individually. This is not a complete list of the consent items. Click here to view all the consent items.
• Approved unanimously (7-0) the creation of a Charter Review Advisory Committee that will have up to 11 members. Applications for the committee will be accepted through March 9 and the council will consider appointments on March 10. A comprehensive review of the charter is a lengthy process and proposed amendments are not likely to go before voters until May 2012.
• Approved unanimously (7-0) the creation of a seven-member Sunset Advisory Commission. The purpose of the commission is to advise the council about whether certain city boards, commissions or committees continue to serve a need.
• Approved by a 6-1 vote a five-year agreement between the city and GEG Productions presenting title sponsorship of the annual Duck Jam, which is set for April 28-30 at Wolf Pen Creek. Funds are budgeted through the hotel occupancy tax along with in-kind contributions from the Parks and Recreation department. Staff earlier explained this event was operated by a promotion group in the past, and the city’s involvement has been different. This year, the city will be a presenting sponsor, looking at in-kind costs, and not charging the fees normally charged in the past. Last year, 12,000 tickets were sold and 30 percent came from outside the area. The promoter said there were 3,000 room nights. The city will be tracking the room nights resulting from this year’s event because there is a performance clause directly tied to how many people it brings to the community. Jess Fields voted against this agreement.
• Approved by a 5-2 vote an Advance Funding Agreement (AFA) for the City of College Station‘s participation in the costs of the Mayday Challenge, a bike race organized by Junction 505. The agreement changes the name of the event to “City of College Station Presents the Junction 505 Mayday Challenge”. Voting against this agreement were Jess Fields and Jana McMillan.
The council voted unanimously (7-0) to consider each item separately in the consent item to declare the intention to reimburse certain expenditures with proceeds from debt for expenditures related to projects authorized as part of the 2008 General Obligation Bond (GOB) package. Click here to view specific information on each of these projects.
• The East District Maintenance Shop Replacement (Veteran’s Park) failed by a 3-4 vote. Voting against were Nancy Berry, Katy-Marie Lyles, Jess Fields and Jana McMillan.
• Construction of the Lick Creek Nature Center failed by a 3-4 vote. Voting against were Nancy Berry, Katy-Marie Lyles, Jess Fields and Jana McMillan.
• Approved by a 6-1 vote the Neighborhood Parks Improvements. Voting against was Katy-Marie Lyles.
• Approved by a 5-2 vote the Neighborhood Park Revolving Fund. Voting against were Katy-Marie Lyles and Jana McMillan.
• Approved by a 5-2 vote the Lick Creek Hike and Bike Trail. Voting against were Katy-Marie Lyles and Jana McMillan.
• Approved unanimously (7-0) the Barron Road East/Lakeway improvements.
• Approved unanimously (7-0) traffic signal improvements.
Mobile Food Venders
The council voted unanimously to approve changes in the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to allow mobile food vendors as part of its continuing efforts to modernize city regulations. Previous ordinances limited vendors to no more than 21 days of operation in a year, which the council felt was too restrictive to accommodate the recent popular trend of mobile food vendors. The changes are designed to increase business opportunities while protecting the community’s health and safety as well as investments by existing food establishments.
The revised ordinance permits mobile food vendors to operate in commercial areas of the city if their products are prepared in an inspected food establishment anywhere in Brazos County, not just in College Station. Other requirements include verification of inspection by the Brazos County Health Department, maintaining a minimum distance from existing restaurants and time limits vendors may remain stationary. In the case of Northgate, it will require mobile vendors to shut down by 2 a.m. at the request of the College Station Police Department.
Arts Council Building Purchase
The council approved by a 5-2 vote the purchase agreement and use agreement for the Arts Council building on Dartmouth Drive. The city has been negotiating this purchase with the Arts Council of Brazos Valley for the last couple of years. The city already owns the land, and the Arts Council will lease the building from the city for a three-year period. The city will have the option to extend that lease by two years. Staff believes this is a sound long-term investment because the city will be able to integrate the property into the Wolf Pen Creek District, and the Arts Council will have the building mortgage paid off. The pay off on the mortgage as of March 1, 2011 is $508,495.26.
VOTE: Voting against the agreements were Jess Fields and Jana McMillan.
Arts Council Operations & Maintenance
The council approved by a 6-1 vote the operations and maintenance agreements between the city and the Arts Council of Brazos Valley for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends in September. These agreements are for a little more than $78,000, which includes $50,000 from the general fund and the rest from the hotel occupancy tax fund. The amount included in these agreements has been reduced by $31,275 because building-related costs have been removed as a result of the city taking ownership of the building.
VOTE: Voting against the agreements was Jess Fields.
(Official minutes of Thursday’s meetings will be available in two weeks)