Notes from Budget Workshop No. 1 (Monday)

Budget Workshop No. 1

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council had the first of a series workshops on the proposed FY16 city budget Monday afternoon at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility.

Monday’s session covered citywide budget issues, the General Fund, general government capital projects, debt service, other governmental funds and the tax rate. The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m. and was adjourned at 8:22 p.m.

The Fiscal Year 2016 proposed net budget for the City of College Station totals $304.2 million for all funds, which includes $217.47 million for operations and maintenance and $86.7 million for capital projects.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

General Fund

The General Fund accounts for city activities typically considered governmental functions, including Police and Fire, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Planning and Development Services. Also included are the primary support services for these areas such as Fiscal Services, Information Technology, and administrative services in General Government.

Proposed net expenditures for FY16 are $76.5 million, a 13.1 percent increase from the revised FY15 budget. The proposed General Fund budget includes additional funds for public safety, street maintenance and repair, parks and recreation facility improvements, and funds for salary increases.

Proposed Salary and Benefits 

Maintaining a competitive pay and benefits structure allows the city to attract and retain highly regarded, well-qualified employees who are on the front lines of providing services to the citizens and visitors of College Station.

Earlier this year, a city-wide salary survey was conducted to determine how the organization’s compensation and benefits package aligns with the market. The initial results of the salary survey are being reviewed, and city staff expects the final report in October.

The proposed budget includes increasing the pay scale by 2 percent, the first adjustment to the city’s pay structure since 2012. The proposal is in line with the preliminary results of the salary survey and would help the city retain its market competitiveness.

The FY16 proposed budget also includes a 2.5 percent pool for performance pay increases for eligible personnel to reward performance and retain high performers. The budget also includes targeted adjustments for particular positions depending on the salary survey results. The pay plan increase is expected to cost $2.1 million.

The budget also continues the step plan in the College Station Police Department and the pay plan in the Fire Department to help them be competitive in hiring and retention.

Council plans to continue discussing the proposed pay increases, especially for police, during Tuesday’s budget workshop.

The FY16 employee health benefits package will again include one Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) option and one high deductible option. The budget includes a 5 percent increase in employee health insurance premiums.

Service Level Adjustments

Departments within the city organization are asked each year to review processes, identify inefficiencies and reallocate resources to enhance services with minimal or no cost increases. However, increased growth also puts demands on resources and creates the need for service level increases.

Here is a summary of some of the key service level increases included in the proposed budget:

  • Police Department: The proposal includes four new positions and associated equipment — one recruiting and training officer, one special investigations officer, one communications officer, and one community enhancement assistant. These employees will allow the department to focus more resources on public safety as the city continues to grow.
  • Fire Department: The proposal includes six firefighter positions to continue the staffing of a second ladder truck. A federal grant is expected to fund these positions for three years. The budget also includes automatic CPR devices and a ladder truck for Fire Station No. 6 on University Drive.
  • Public Works: The proposed budget includes $1.6 million in increased funding for street repairs, including one-time funding of $1.45 million. The budget also includes about $1.9 million to address maintenance and repairs identified in a recent assessment of city facilities. In addition, the proposed budget includes an additional traffic engineer as part of the continued implementation of the Intelligent Transportation System master plan.
  • Electric Utility: The electric utility budget includes an electric meter technician position, a line technician/troubleman position, and substation painting.
  • Water Services: The water budget includes the addition of a crew leader position and field operator position, completing a two-year plan to add another crew responsible for maintaining the water distribution and wastewater collection systems.
  • Parks and Recreation: The Parks and Recreation proposed budget addresses equipment needs as well as court resurfacing, replacement playground equipment and the repair and addition of amenities. The Parks Asset Management Plan identified many of these items.
  • Neighborhood Integrity: Planning and Development Services funds are included for the continued implementation of neighborhood plans.
  • Economic Development: The proposed budget additional economic development efforts, including funding for the Economic Development Division.

Appendix  B in the budget document includes a full listing of requested service level adjustments.

Streets, Traffic, Sidewalks and Trails Capital Projects

Capital transportation projects totaling $22.22 million include street rehabilitation projects, street extension and capacity improvement projects, traffic projects, and sidewalk and trail projects.

Some key rehabilitation projects include Rock Prairie Road from Medical Way to W.D. Fitch Parkway, Luther Street, Munson Street, and Francis Drive. Certificates of obligation or budget balances from completed projects will fund most of these projects.

The proposal includes several street extension and capacity improvement projects, including the Lakeway extension project, the Rock Prairie Road West widening project, and the Greens Prairie Trail/FM 2154 intersection improvements project.

The proposed budget includes several projects that are expected to address existing and projected traffic needs through certificates of obligation. These projects include Greens Prairie Trail from FM 2154 through Royder Road, Union Pacific Railroad crossing relocation at Deacon Drive, the design of FM 2818 capacity improvements, and the widening of Holleman Drive South.

Traffic system projects included in the proposed budget include the construction of a signal and roadway improvements at Victoria Drive and State Highway 40. Also included is the continued implementation of the Intelligent Transportation System Master Plan. In addition, funds have been included for signal projects that may be needed.

Key sidewalk and trail projects include completion of the Lick Creek Park Hike and Bike Trail and initial construction on Phase II of the University Drive Pedestrian Improvements project. More details about each of these projects can be found in the Governmental Capital Improvement Projects Budget section of the budget document.

Parks and Recreation Capital Projects

Parks and Recreation capital improvement projects total $4.52 million, including $184,750 for field redevelopment and funds for replacement and repairs to various athletic facilities and parks. Key facility projects include completion of the Lincoln Recreation Center addition and the Lick Creek Nature Center.

More details about each of these projects can be found in the Governmental Capital Improvement Projects Budget section of the budget document.

Park Land Dedication Capital Improvement Projects

The Park Land Dedication Funds account for funds received from residential land developers who dedicate land — or money instead of land — for use in the development of neighborhood parks in residential areas. Park Land Dedication Funds must be used for the development of parks within the zone to which the funds are dedicated.

Key projects included in the FY16 proposed budget include the initial design phase of the Fun for All Playground at Central Park, an inclusive playground for children with special needs. The project is a joint effort between the City of College Station, the College Station Rotary Club, and the College Station Noon Lions Club.

Other parks on which significant development is expected include Crescent Point Park, Sonoma Park, Reatta Meadows Park, Bridgewood Park and Barracks Park. In addition, funds for minor amenity improvements have been included for Windwood Park, Edelweiss Park, Longmire Park, Sandstone Park, Southern Oaks Park, and Castlegate Park.

General Government and Capital Equipment Projects

General government and capital equipment projects are planned assets that have value to more than one specific area of city operations. The two primary divisions in this category are public facilities and technology projects.

In FY16, $8.64 million is budgeted for public facility projects, including the library expansion. The budget also includes compliance and corrective maintenance projects for existing city facilities. These projects include the replacement, containment repair, and cleaning of existing above-ground storage tanks at the Public Works facility; the addition of a tipping structure that will be used for street sweeping containment; and corrective maintenance on the Police Department building.

The budget also includes the design of a new police station and the conceptual planning and design of a community center. Based on current forecasts, eventual construction of these projects would require a tax increase.

The proposed budget also includes $1.9 million for technology projects, including the ongoing fiber optic infrastructure project. The estimate includes the public safety Computer Aided Dispatch/Records Management System replacement project and continuation of the Enterprise Resource Planning system replacement.

More details about each of these projects can be found in the Governmental Capital Improvement Projects Budget section of the budget document.

What’s Ahead

Tuesday’s budget workshop will include discussion of the city’s enterprise and special revenue funds, outside agency funding and the hotel tax fund. Additional workshops could be conducted Wednesday and Thursday if needed.

A public hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for Sept 2 at city hall. A public hearing on the budget and tax rate will be Sept. 10. Budget adoption is set for Sept. 21.

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