Proposed FY16 Budget presented to city council

budget

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

It’s no secret that College Station is one of the country’s fastest growing small cities. Our population has increased about 36 percent in the last decade.

Over 103,000 people now call College Station home — and more are on the way. Conservative estimates say we could add another 40,000 residents in the next 10 years, with the student populations at Texas A&M and Blinn College continuing to expand.

With that rapid growth comes a demand for adequate infrastructure and core services related to public safety and parks.

City staff has spent months studying the city’s immediate and long-range needs while consulting with residents and other stakeholder groups. The result is what we consider a responsible FY2016 budget that will help us keep pace with our growth and meet the increased demand for city services we expect in the coming years.

The College Station City Council received the proposed budget at Thursday night’s workshop. After a series of budget workshops on Monday and Tuesday — with additional workshops on Wednesday and Thursday of needed — a public hearing on the proposed tax rate is set for Sept. 2 followed by a hearing on the budget on Sept. 10. Council is scheduled to adopt the budget on Sept. 21.

The proposal totals more than $304 million and includes more than $86 million in capital projects that are necessary to meet our current and expected growth.

The best part is that the proposal includes no increases in the property tax rate or utility rates.

Unless the city council decides otherwise, the tax rate will remain at 45.25 cents per $100 of valuation. If you own a $175,000 home, that means you’ll pay about $66 a month. In return, you get 24-hour police and fire support, streets and traffic management, parks facilities, code enforcement and planning and development services.

That’s not a bad deal when you consider it’s about half the cost of the average cell phone bill.

By the way, our tax rate remains among the lowest in the state, too.

What does the budget mean to you?

First, let’s take a look at public safety. The mission of the police and fire departments, along with emergency medical services, is to provide a safe community for us to live in and raise our families.

The proposed Police Department budget includes four new positions — a recruiting and training officer, a special investigations officer, a communications operator and a community enhancement assistant.

The proposed Fire Department budget includes for six new firefighters to continue the staffing of a new ladder truck, which will eventually need 15 firefighters. We expect to fund these positions through a federal grant for two years.

The budget also provides for the purchase of the ladder truck along with automatic CPR devices.

What about our infrastructure?

With more people coming to town as residents and visitors, we obviously need better traffic flow and to properly maintain and expand our streets and transportation systems. The proposed Public Works budget covers the next phase of the Intelligent Traffic System Master Plan and an additional $1.6 million for street repairs.

About $1.9 million will also be allocated for building repairs identified through a facilities assessment.

Capital funds come from various sources, including general obligation bonds authorized by voters, certificates of obligation supported by tax and utility rates. We also have access to cash reserves from the general fund, utility funds, and hotel tax fund.

The proposed Capital Improvements Budget adds up to almost $86 million.

Street and transportation projects covered include the rehabilitation of Munson Avenue and Francis Drive, the extension of Lakeway Drive, safety improvements to Greens Prairie and Royder Roads, the railroad crossing at Deacon Drive, the design of capacity improvements for FM 2818, and a design for the widening of Holleman Drive South.

Those projects were all identified as vital needs by a citizen advisory committee in May.

Facility projects addressed in the proposed budget include the expansion of the Ringer Library and the design of a new police station. Also included are two new synthetic fields for Veterans Park to continue the development of our thriving athletic tourism industry.

While our growth has the most noticeable impact on our streets and transportation systems, it has had an equally dramatic impact on our electric, water and wastewater utilities.

Among the utility capital projects funded are the re-routing of electric transmission lines, new and replacement electric transformers, our ninth water well, new and rehabilitated water lines, wastewater treatment plant improvements, and storm drain replacement on Southwest Parkway.

The proposed budget also includes improvements and repairs at various parks, as well as new equipment to assist in the maintenance of our parks system.

What about city services?

That brings us back to meeting the demand of our residents for city services. We certainly couldn’t do that without our most valuable resource — our workforce. Maintaining a competitive pay and benefits structure allows us to attract — and keep — well-qualified employees who provide services to our residents and visitors.

A recent salary survey resulted in a recommended two percent pay scale adjustment of all employees, along with a 2.5 percent pool for performance-based pay increases.

The budget also includes funding for the Police Department’s step plan and the pay plans in the Fire and Electric Departments to help them be more competitive in attracting and retaining their personnel.

The City of College Station is confident that its proposed FY16 budget responsibly and adequately addresses the needs of our community as we plan for an even brighter future.

If you’d like to take a closer look at the proposed budget, the entire document is available online at cstx.gov/budget.

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