City budget focuses on growth and public safety
By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager
The proposed FY19 city budget presented to the College Station City Council on Aug. 9 totals $360.7 million, about $5 million less than this year.
Yes, you read that right. The city plans to spend 1.37 percent less in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. But before you fret about cuts in our high-quality services, let’s take a closer look.
The decrease is all on the capital projects side. We’re still investing about $108.4 million in vital infrastructure projects, but that includes multi-year projects that were appropriated in FY18 and are still in progress. The operations and maintenance part of the budget includes a $1.9 million boost to address growth and maintain our high level of service.
The General Fund, which pays for public safety, public works, parks, planning and development services, and administration, totals about $83.7 million. The overall budget focuses on core services and maintaining and building the infrastructure for a city that’s grown by more than 25 percent since the 2010 census.
The proposed budget also reflects the 5 percent homestead exemption the city council adopted in June to shift some of the property tax burden off permanent residents. The budget offsets the lost revenue with a property tax rate increase of less than 1 cent, raising it to 50.5841 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The only proposed change in utility rates is a five percent wastewater increase to be used for system improvements needed to keep up with our growth and to replace aging infrastructure.
Tax Rate Remains Low
While property values continue to rise and bring in new revenue, it’s not enough to provide the infrastructure and levels of service our current and future residents need and deserve.
College Station’s proposed tax rate would still rank among the lowest in Texas and would be about a dime less than the state average among similar-sized cities. It’s far less than what you’ll find in other fast-growing areas, including Bryan, which has a tax rate of almost 63 cents.
If you have a $200,000 home in College Station, you’ll pay about $84 a month for 24-hour police and fire protection, streets and traffic management, parks facilities, code enforcement and planning and development services.
That’s a great deal when compared to what you typically pay for cell phone or cable television service.
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.
The proposed budgets for the police and fire departments includes funds for new equipment along with pay increases to maintain competitiveness in the local market and increase retention.
Capital Projects and Infrastructure
The $108.4 million proposed for capital improvement projects 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.
The capital budget includes about $16.2 million for street and transportation projects such as the extensions to Greens Prairie Road and Greens Prairie Trail, phase three of the Royder Road project, and the relocation of the Cain Road/Deacon Drive railroad crossing.
Facility projects include the expansion of the library, the new police station, initial phases of a new city hall, and renovations to create a senior and community center in the old Arts Council building at Dartmouth and Colgate.
Utility projects include the implementation of smart electric meters (Advanced Meter Infrastructure), the Graham Road electric substation, and the expansion of the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Parks & Recreation
The parks budget covers significant facility improvements and repairs along with the construction of Southeast Park near the old Rock Prairie landfill and the new synthetic fields at Veterans Park & Athletic Complex. Also included are a new grounds worker and an upgrade to the lightning detection system used throughout our parks system.
That brings us back to answering 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 a 5 percent boost in the city’s contribution to employee health care premiums.
Public Hearing Dates
The council will review the budget in a series of in-depth workshops from Aug. 20-22, with final adoption of the budget and tax rate set for Sept. 27. A public hearing on the tax rate is set for Sept. 5, followed by a public hearing on the tax rate and budget on Sept. 13.
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 worked as 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.
If you found value in this blog post, please share it with your social network and friends!