FY18 city budget spotlights public safety, infrastructure
By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager
Just about everyone agrees that the College Station Police Department has outgrown its current building on Texas Avenue. That’s why the city council last year unanimously approved a new police facility. City-owned property on the southeast corner of Krenek Tap Road and Dartmouth Street was chosen as the site.
The new station will accommodate almost twice as many work stations along with adequate space for training, evidence processing, storage, dispatch, and more. It also furnishes room to grow as the city continues to expand.
At $28 million, providing a modern facility to our brave men and women in blue isn’t cheap. But considering that our police department has worked so hard to make us one of the nation’s safest cities, they deserve a top-notch place to perform their duties as efficiently as possible.
The proposed FY18 city budget presented to the city council Thursday night includes a modest 2½ cent increase in the property tax rate to pay for the new police station. If the council approves the increase in September, it would nudge the tax rate from 47.25 cents to 49.75 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The proposed budget totals about $365.5 million, including almost $121 million in capital projects. The General Fund, which pays for public safety, public works, parks, planning and development service, and administration, totals about $81.9 million.
Tax Rate Remains Low
While property values continue to rise and bring in substantial new revenue, it’s simply not enough to provide the infrastructure and levels of service our current and future residents need and deserve. The good news is that College Station’s proposed tax rate still ranks among the lowest in Texas.
In fact, it would still be about 10 cents less than the state average (58.82 cents) among cities with populations between 75,000 and 150,000 and is far below what you’ll find in other fast-growing areas. Our neighbors to the north in the City of Bryan manage a tax rate of almost 63 cents.
If you have a $175,000 home in College Station, you’ll pay less than $73 a month for 24-hour police and fire protection, streets and traffic management, parks facilities, code enforcement and planning and development services.
That’s considerably less than a typical cell phone bill.
The budget proposal also includes a six percent water rate increase to keep up with our growth and upgrade our aging infrastructure, but that won’t kick in until July 2018. At the same time, we’ll see varied rate increases for residential and commercial sanitation services. No changes are recommended to electric and wastewater rates.
Here’s the PowerPoint presentation presented to council:
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 police and fire departments account for more than half of the city’s General Fund budget.
Part of the proposed tax increase would pay for seven new positions in the Police Department – two detectives, a special investigator, two police assistants, and two telecommunicators. The budget also covers three new positions in the Fire Department and absorbs six firefighters who had been previously funded by a federal grant. In addition, the department can replace vital equipment and begin planning for its seventh fire station.
The $120 million proposed for capital improvements come from various sources, including general obligation bonds authorized by voters, certificates of obligation supported by tax and utility rates, cash reserves from the General Fund, utility funds, and hotel tax fund.
Major street projects on tap include Royder Road Phase II, the extension of Lakeway Drive, and the Cain/Deacon railroad crossing. Utility projects include electric distribution and transmission systems, another water well, two sewer lines, and the expansion of the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Planning and Parks
The massive amount of new development has also created tremendous strains on our Planning & Development Services Department, which needs another senior planner and a development review engineer to provide for faster processing of development plans.
Meanwhile, the parks budget covers significant facility improvements and repairs and two additional positions to enhance efficiency and asset management. Capital parks projects include synthetic fields at Veterans Park, the design of the new Southeast Park, expansion of the Ringer Library, and the ongoing expansion of the Lincoln Recreation Center.
That brings us back to meeting the demand of residents for high-quality services, which aren’t possible without the city’s most valuable resource — our workforce. Maintaining a competitive pay and benefits structure allows us to attract — and keep — well-qualified employees to serve our residents and visitors.
The proposed budget includes a 2 percent pay scale adjustment for all positions, a 1½ percent pool for performance pay increases, and continues the step plan for public safety employees.
Public Hearing Dates
The council will review the budget in a three-day series of in-depth workshops starting Monday, with final adoption of the budget and tax rate set for Sept. 25. A public hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for Aug. 30, followed by another public hearing on the tax rate and budget on Sept. 11.
About the Author
Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also been a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.
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