City Manager

City budget focuses on growth and public safety

2019 budget graphic

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.

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 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.

City Services

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.

 


About the Blogger

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!


		
	

CSU’s smart meters will be safe and secure

By David Coleman, College Station Interim Assistant City Manager

College Station Utilities customers have grown accustomed to workers entering their backyards to read the electric meter. No one looks forward to the monthly intrusion on their privacy, but the work is necessary to get an accurate measure of your electricity usage.

The situation is as uncomfortable for our readers as it is for our customers. You don’t like the invasion of your privacy; our readers don’t like encountering startled Rottweilers. If only a better, less intrusive way existed to check your monthly electricity usage.

Well, it does. And CSU and its electric customers will soon have access to it.

Last month, the College Station City Council directed CSU to move forward with implementing Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI), commonly called smart meters. The process will take about three years to complete. The change will apply only to electric meters, while water will continue to install AMI-ready meters for future implementation.

Smart meters record energy usage just like traditional meters but send and receive the data through wireless communications technology. That eliminates the need for us to enter your property on a regular basis. The new system will not reduce our workforce, either, since we’ll hire meter and system technicians to replace the readers.

Since 2010, AMI use has doubled with about half the nation’s electricity customer accounts now using smart meters. In 2016, Texas added the most residential smart meters of any state. Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU) successfully implemented its AMI system more than six years ago.

The council’s decision has raised some questions about the pros and cons of smart meters. Even though the city hasn’t yet requested proposals from potential contractors, we can still address many of the issues.

In addition to being less invasive, the meters will provide timely data that helps us generate more accurate utility bills by reducing human error. We’ll be able to better monitor system performance, control energy theft, provide greater reliability, and pinpoint and respond faster to outages. The system also will make it easier for you to identify ways to save energy and trim your monthly bill.

Since College Station is home to one of the nation’s largest universities, our electric utility handles an extraordinary number of service connects and disconnects. Because of the transient nature of much of our growing population, College Station Utilities processed about 70,000 connection and disconnection work orders last year.

During the peak move-in and move-out times in May and August, what should be a simple service can take several days. We’ll soon be able to handle those 70,000 annual connects and disconnects remotely, which will significantly improve our customer service capabilities and recover about 700,000 miles logged by our service trucks each year, providing substantial savings and environmental benefits.

Privacy and Security

Our top priority has always been providing reliable and safe electric service, which includes safeguarding your privacy and protecting your data. Since we must know how much electricity you use to bill you accurately, that’s all the smart meters measure — not how you use the electricity. Only consumption data is transmitted, nothing more. At the same time, the system’s firewall protects us against external hacking threats.

Moreover, privacy laws require us to protect consumer data. We can’t share that information without your permission, so rest assured it won’t end up in the hands of marketers.

Radiation

Our most likely communication system would use radio frequency, which produces no microwave radiation. Research shows that standing next to the AMI meter exposes you a fraction of the electromagnetic radiation produced by cell phones or baby monitors.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas recently concluded that “decades of scientific research have not provided any proven or unambiguous biological effects from exposure to low-level radio frequency signals. In reviewing all available material, (PUC) staff found no credible evidence to suggest that smart meters emit harmful amounts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation.”

Costs

For several years, the leadership of our electric utility has prudently set aside adequate funds in CSU’s budget for potential capital projects such as an AMI system. That means the new meters won’t cause an increase in electric rates. The up-front, one-time cost of implementing the AMI system is expected to be about $9.2 million, with annual operations and maintenance costs of about $660,000.

If the meters have a life of 11-12 years, we’ll likely break even on the costs and benefits of the new system. Any shortfall would simply be the cost of doing business and providing better service.

We encourage CSU electric customers to participate in the discussion when an AMI contract is presented to the city council early next year.

 


About the Blogger

David Coleman serves as College Station’s interim assistant city manager after 14 years as the director of water services at College Station Utilities. He also served 21 years as a civil engineer corps officer in the U.S. Navy. Coleman earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M in 1981 and a master’s in construction engineering from Stanford.


 

If you found value in this blog post, please share it with your social network and friends!

 

 


CSPD’s Harris named city’s 2017 employee of the year

Employee of the Year Kevin Harris and Mayor Karl Mooney

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

College Station Police Department Sgt. Kevin Harris was named the City of College Station’s 2017 Employee of the Year during a ceremony Thursday at the city council’s workshop meeting.

Harris was among 13 candidates who were nominated by their peers. The nominations were reviewed and judged by a panel of employees representing a cross-section of the organization.

Harris, an eight-year veteran of CSPD, is assigned to night shift patrol. Among his many duties, Harris serves as administrator for the Brazos Tech ticket-writing software and is part of the implementation team for the Tri-Tech Computer-Aided Dispatch and Records Management System — also known as CAD/RMS.

Employee of the Year Nominees (L-R): Gerald Borths, Diana Clendenin, Cecilia Browder, Bo Deal, Julia Franz, Kevin Harris, Amber Johnson, Tom Jordan, Cheletia Johnson, Lacey Lively, Cody Mays, Joyce Parish, Jennifer Springer.

Employee of the Year Nominees

Gerald Borths, Crew Leader (Water Services)

Cecilia Browder, Staff Assistant (Public Works)

Diana Clendenin, Generalist (Human Resources)

Bo Deal, Firefighter (Fire)

Julia Franz, Telecommunications Supervisor (Police)

Kevin Harris, Sergeant (Police)

Amber Johnson, Staff Assistant (Planning & Development Services)

Cheletia Johnson, Lincoln recreation Center Supervisor (Parks & Recreation)

Tom Jordan, SCADA Systems Analyst (CSU Electric)

Lacey Lively, Marketing Manager (Public Communications)

Cody Mays, Systems Analyst (Information Technology)

Joyce Parish, Customer Service Representative (Utility Customer Service)

Jennifer Springer, Office Manager (Utility Customer Service)

 

Service Awards

The city also recognized its employees who have reached 20, 25, 30 and 35 years of service.

Employees who reached the milestones of 5, 10 and 15 years of service were recognized at departmental events.

20-Year Service Awards (L-R): Neil Black, Billy Couch, Jennifer Nations, Brandy Norris, Gilbert Urrutia. Others listed below were unable to attend.

20 years

Neil Black, Network Systems Analyst (Information Services)

Billy Couch, Assistant Chief (Police)

Stacy Lee, Electric Compliance Officer (CSU Electric)

Jennifer Nations, Program Coordinator (Water Services)

Brandy Norris, Assistant Chief (Police)

Kenneth Petereit, Sergeant (Police)

Christopher Poole, Captain (Fire)

Noe Rincones, Officer (Police)

Timothy Sullivan, Captain (Fire)

Gilbert Urrutia, Mechanic (Public Works)

 

25-Year Service Awards (L-R): James Woodward, Celia Hernandez, Kyle Patterson, Debbie Raley. Tim Hamff was unable to attend.

25 years

Tim Hamff, Captain (Fire)

Celia Hernandez, Executive Assistant (City Manager’s Office)

Kyle Patterson, Sergeant (Police)

Debbie Raley, Customer Service Representative (Fiscal Services)

James Woodward, Sergeant (Police)

 

30-Year Service Awards: Ben Accurso, Jr. Randall Harmon was unable to attend.

30 years

Ben Accurso, Jr., Meter Services Supervisor (Water Services)

Randall Harmon, Lieutenant (Fire)

 

25-Year Service Awards (L-R): Deborah-Grace-Rosier and Louis Solis.

35 years

Deborah Grace-Rosier, Staff Assistant II (Planning & Development Services)

Louis Solis, Apparatus Operator (Fire)

 

Congratulations to all and thank you for your service and dedication!

 

 


About the Blogger

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!


		
	

Photos: McMahan sworn in as fire chief

Jonathan McMahan was sworn in Friday afternoon as College Station’s new fire chief in a ceremony at Fire Station No. 6.

Here are some photos:

Judge Ed Spillane administers the oath to Chief McMahan.

Judge Ed Spillane administers the oath to Chief McMahan.

Chief McMahan received his pin from Chief Michael Brandt of Arizona’s Northwest Fire District.

Chief McMahan received his pin from Chief Michael Brandt of Arizona’s Northwest Fire District.

City Manager Kelly Templin congratulates Chief McMahan.

City Manager Kelly Templin congratulates Chief McMahan.

(L-R) Councilman Jerome Rektorik, Mayor Karl Mooney, Councilwoman Linda Harvell, Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan, Police Chief Scott McCollum, Councilwoman Blanche Brick , and City Manager Kelly Templin.

(L-R) Councilman Jerome Rektorik, Mayor Karl Mooney, Councilwoman Linda Harvell, Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan, Police Chief Scott McCollum, Councilwoman Blanche Brick, and City Manager Kelly Templin.

College Station Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan.

College Station Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan.

Photos by Jon Carpenter

– Public Communications Office


Council reviews proposed budget during workshops

Budget4

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council had its final workshop about the proposed FY17 city budget on Tuesday at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility. The session primarily covered the city’s funding of outside agencies and the hotel tax fund. 

The Fiscal Year 2017 proposed net budget for the City of College Station totals $341 million for all funds, which includes $217.47 million for operations and maintenance and $108 million for capital projects.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

First, my apologies for not posting a blog from Monday’s initial budget workshop. I had to be out-of-town. Before we go into the details of today’s workshop, I’ll briefly recap Monday’s discussion of the general fund, tax rate, and road maintenance fee.

Monday’s Recap

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 FY17 General Fund revenues are $78.1 million, an 11.8 percent increase.

The total net taxable certified value of property in the City of College Station for 2016 is about $7.99 billion, an increase of 11.9 percent from 2015. The increase in value is due in part to $284 million in new construction and development being added to the tax rolls. Existing property values increased by 7.9 percent over 2015.

The FY17 Proposed Budget includes a tax rate of 47.25 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which includes 27.7161 cents for operations and maintenance and 19.5339 cents for debt service. That marks a two-cent increase from the FY16 rate of 45.25. For the owner of a $175,000 home, the new rate would raise the monthly tax bill by less than $3.

Based on the final property value numbers received – the effective tax rate for FY17 is 42.4282 cents. The effective tax rate is the rate that will raise the same revenues as last year on the same properties. The rollback tax rate of 47.2820 cents is the highest that can be adopted before citizens can initiate a petition to lower it back to the rollback rate.

The average tax rate for Texas cities with populations from 75,000-150,000 is about 58 cents. The 10 fastest-growing non-suburbs – excluding College Station – average about 59 cents. The City of Bryan has a tax rate of 62.9 cents, along with a monthly street improvement fee.

The budget also includes a proposed $10 roadway maintenance fee for residential utility customers. The fee would generate about $4 million each year for street and road maintenance, which was cited as a top priority in a recent survey of city residents.   

On Tuesday, the council focused on outside agency funding and the hotel tax fund.

Outside Agency Funding

Total proposed FY16 outside agency funding is $4.46 million. Requested from the General Fund is $1.25 million for these agencies:

  • Research Valley Partnership: $350,000 (operations).
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $35,000 (operations).
  • Noon Lions Club: $15,000 (Fourth of July celebration).
  • Aggieland Humane Society: $235,000 (operations).
  • Brazos County Health District: $326,500 (operations).
  • Brazos Central Appraisal District: $288,661 (operations).

Requested from the Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund is $3.16 million:

  • B-CS Convention & Visitors Bureau: $2,122,616 (operations).
  • B-CS CVB Grant Program: $400,000.
  • Easterwood Airport Advertising: $102,690.
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $91,000 (operations)
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $348,400 (affiliate funding/marketing)
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $43,500 (marketing/public support)
  • Veterans Memorial: $25,000 (development of Civil War memorial).
  • B-CS Chamber of Commerce: $25,000.

Keep Brazos Beautiful requested $51,190 from the Sanitation Fund.

Hotel Tax Fund     

The hotel tax allows the city to collect up to its current rate of 7 percent on rental income of hotels and motels in the city limits.Hotel tax funds can only be spent on specific items that promote tourism.

The FY17 budgeted hotel tax revenue is $5.4 million, a 2.5 percent increase from FY16. Hotel tax revenues are expected to increase due to a solid tourism economy and the addition of several hotels. Total city operating expenditures in the Hotel Tax Fund are increased by 36.4 percent to about $7.4 million, which includes two additional synthetic fields at Veterans Park and provides improvements to existing fields.

About $1.7 million is proposed for the initial phase of the Southeast Park project, and $690,000 is budgeted for the fourth preferred access payment to the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the use ofTexas A&M’s athletic facilities.

Court and Police Seizure Funds

The College Station Municipal Court collects a number of special fees authorized by the state legislature. These fees are the court technology fee, court security fee, efficiency time payment fee, juvenile case manager fee and the truancy prevention fee. Other fees collected specifically for child safety are collected in the General Fund and are used to pay for school crossing guards. These fees are paid by those who pay tickets at College Station Municipal Court.

The Police Seizure Fund accounts for items received through the Police Department as a result of criminal investigations. These funds are used for one-time equipment and other purchases to assist in police activities. Police Seizure Fund revenues are estimated to be $20,401 in FY17 with proposed expenditures of $20,000.

Cemetery Fund

The Memorial Cemetery Fund is a special fund that accounts for two-thirds of the sales of cemetery lots and other revenues through the Memorial Cemetery, which includes the Aggie Field of Honor. For FY17, proposed revenue earnings are $257,004.

Other Special Revenue Funds

  • Wolf Pen Creek TIF Fund: Accounts for ad valorem tax and other revenues that are accrued to the WPC Tax Increment Finance District. The fund also accounts for expenditures on projects that take place in the WPC District.
    • Fund Balance – $1.27 million
    • Expenditures – $5,000
  • West Medical District TIRZ No. 18: Established in December 2012, the West Medical District Tax Increment Refinance Zone encompasses the area near the State Highway 6-Rock Prairie Road Bridge and includes The Med and Scott & White Hospital. Development in this portion of the district is expected to meet or exceed $117 million over a 20-year period, which would yield about $8.4 million in tax proceeds. The funds will be used to support the required improvement projects.
    • Revenue: $230,135 – tax revenue and interest earnings
    • Expenditures: $0
  • East Medical District  TIRZ No. 19: Established in December 2012, the East Medical District TIRZ encompasses the area east of the State Highway 6-Rock Prairie Road Bridge and includes most of the district’s undeveloped properties. Development projects include Rock Prairie Road East, Barron Road, Lakeway Drive, potable water, fire flow water supply, greenway trails, sanitary sewer service, and other public works. New development is expected to meet or exceed $283 million over a 20-year period, which would yield about $30.8 million in tax proceeds. The funds will be used to fund the required improvement projects.
    • Revenue: $2,971 – tax revenue and interest earnings
    • Expenditures: $0
  • Public, Education and Government Access Channel Fee Fund: PEG funds are collected in an amount equal to one percent of Suddenlink Media’s gross revenues, per a new state franchise agreement that replaced a 10-year-old local franchise agreement. These funds, collected quarterly, may be used for educational and governmental broadcasting on Channel 19.
    • Revenue – $201,000 – cable franchise fees and interest earnings
    • Expenditures: $143,640
  • R.E. Meyer Estate Restricted Gift Fund: When Robert Earl “Bob” Meyer passed away in October 2013, he generously bequeathed 25 percent of his estate to the College Station Parks and Recreation Department with the gift restricted for the benefit of senior adult programs.

Electric Fund

The electric utility provides for the construction of new facilities needed to extend electrical service to new consumers, performs repairs and maintenance to the electric system, and installs and maintains street and traffic lights. Electric utility employees maintain over 20 miles of electric transmission lines, seven electrical substations, and more than 450 miles of overhead and underground electric distribution lines.

A one percent decrease in electric rates is proposed in the FY17 budget. Revenues of $102 million are projected with operating expenditures of $73.4 million and non-operating expenditures of about $31 million, which includes $16.8 million in capital projects.

Water Fund

As a city enterprise, the full cost of service for water production, transmission and distribution is recovered by charging customers for consumption on a per unit basis. 

No water rate increase is included in the FY17 budget. Revenues of $15.8 million are projected with operating expenditures of $8.2 million, non-operating expenditures of about $9.2 million, and $8.7 million in capital projects.

Wastewater Fund

Wastewater services are provided as an enterprise function with service-related fees paying for the cost of service. 

An eight percent increase in wastewater rates is included in the FY16 budget. Revenues of $16.7 million are projected with operating expenditures of $7.1 million, non-operating expenditures of about $13.2 million, and $14.4 million in capital projects.

Sanitation Fund

The Sanitation Division of Public Works serves the city’s solid waste collection needs, including curbside recycling, brush and grass clipping collection, street sweeping, removal of waste and the provision of residential containers. Commercial services are also provided to local businesses.

No sanitation rate increase is included in the FY17 budget. Revenues of $9.6 million are projected with operating expenditures of $9 million and non-operating expenditures of about $867,000 million.

Drainage Fund

Like all the city’s enterprise funds, the goal of the drainage fund is to provide a quality service at a reasonable cost. No rate increase is included in the FY17 budget, which projects expenditures of about $1.8 million.

Northgate Parking Fund

The Northgate Parking Fund accounts for parking operations in the Northgate District, including the surface parking lot on Patricia Street, the College Main Parking Garage and on-street parking. Revenues of $1.4 million are projected with operating expenditures of $1.3 million.

Internal Service Funds

The City of College Station is partially self-insured for property, casualty and general liability, workers compensation and unemployment compensation. The city became self-funded for employee and dependent health care in January 2004. The current program is administered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. These insurance funds are accounted for as Internal Service Funds.

  • Property & Casualty Insurance: $1.12 million in expenditures and transfers.
  • Employee Benefits Fund: $12.7 million in expenditures and transfers.
  • Workers Compensation Insurance: $678,000 in expenditures and transfers.
  • Unemployment Insurance Fund: $50,000 in expenditures.

Equipment Replacement Fund

The Equipment Replacement Fund is an internal service fund that provides equipment and fleet replacements. The FY17 budget projects about $6.2 million in expenditures and revenues of $6.6 million.

Fleet Maintenance Fund

The Fleet Maintenance Fund is an Internal Service Fund that receives revenue based on expected costs of departmental transportation and uses those funds to pay for maintaining the city’s fleet of vehicles. The FY17 budget projects about $2.1 million in expenditures and revenues of $2.2 million.

Utility Customer Service

The Utility Customer Service Fund is an Internal Service Fund that accounts for expenses associated with reading electric and water meters, completing connect and disconnect requests, and providing customer service activities including billing and collections for electric, water, wastewater, sanitation, and drainage utilities.

The FY17 budget projects about $2.8 million in expenditures and revenues of $2.65 million.

What’s Ahead?

A public hearing on the proposed tax rate of 47.25 is scheduled for 7 p.m. on August 31 at city hall. A public hearing on the budget and tax rate will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 at city hall. Budget adoption is set for Sept. 22.


Colin KillianAbout the Author

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian)has been with the City of College Station since 2010. He previously served 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also done extensive volunteer work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and 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!


FY17 budget focuses on public safety, streets and infrastructure

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The citizen survey conducted in April showed that most of our residents believe College Station is headed in the right direction. We’re proud to be one of the most livable and desirable cities in Texas.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work to do.

According to the U.S. Census, College Station was the fastest-growing non-suburb in Texas from 2014 to 2015. In the last decade, our population has grown by a whopping 28 percent. With student populations at Texas A&M and Blinn continuing to expand, we can expect another 40,000 residents in the next 10 years.

Thanks to our rapid growth – not to mention substantial budget cuts in the years after the 2008-09 recession – we’ve fallen behind in some key areas, especially street maintenance. Although surveyed residents gave the city high marks for customer service and overall service quality, they made it crystal clear where they want the city to focus its efforts.

Better streets, less traffic congestion, adequate infrastructure and public safety services were at the top of the list. Unfortunately, none of those necessities are cheap.

Proposed Tax Rate

The proposed FY17 city budget presented to the city council Thursday night includes a modest two-cent increase in the property tax rate and an eight percent increase in wastewater fees. The council may also consider a roadway maintenance fee. The water rate would remain the same while the electric rate would fall by one percent, thanks to lower purchased power costs.

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 deserve. And the proposed tax rate of 47.25 per $100 valuation would still be far below what you’ll find in most other Texas cities, especially those experiencing the consequences of similar growth patterns.

The average tax rate for Texas cities with populations from 75,000-150,000 is about 58 cents. The 10 fastest-growing non-suburbs – excluding College Station – average about 59 cents. Even our neighbors to the north in the City of Bryan have a tax rate of 62.9 cents, along with a monthly street improvement fee.

If you have a $175,000 home, the increase would raise your monthly tax bill by about $3. You would be paying less than $69 a month for 24-hour police and fire protection, streets and traffic management, parks facilities, code enforcement and planning and development services.

That’s less than a typical monthly cell phone bill.

The proposed budget totals almost $341 million, including more than $108 million in capital projects required to meet our current and expected growth.

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. Part of the proposed tax increase would pay for seven new positions in the Police Department – five officers, a criminal investigations assistant, and a digital evidence technician.

The budget also includes $25 million for a new police station.

In addition, the new tax revenue would cover five new firefighter positions to complete the staffing and equipping of the city’s second ladder truck, which will go into service next year.

Core Services and Capital Projects

With more people coming to town as residents and visitors, we obviously need better traffic flow and properly maintained and expanded streets and transportation systems. The proposed budget includes almost $2.6 in new funding for street improvements and more than $24 million for street and transportation capital projects.

The massive amount of new development has also created tremendous strains on our Planning & Development Services Department, which needs to add a graduate engineer, an engineering construction inspector and a combination building inspector. Increases in development fees are proposed to pay for these positions.

The $108 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.

The eight percent increase in wastewater fees would help pay for related capital projects in 2017 and beyond. The city is also considering implementing water, wastewater and roadway impact fees on new development. If adopted, these fees would help cover the costs of infrastructure in our high-growth areas.

City Services

That brings us back to meeting the demand of our residents for city services. You can’t provide high-quality services 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 who provide services to our residents and visitors.

Over $2 million is included in the budget for implementing the new pay plan and providing a pool for performance increases in FY 17. A 2015 salary survey resulted in a recommendation to implement a new pay structure to address performance and retain high performers.

The proposed budget includes a 3 percent pool for performance pay increases for eligible employees, a 3 percent increase to the step plan for sworn positions in the Police Department, and a 3 percent performance pay increase for the Fire Department.

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. 22. A public hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for Aug. 31, followed by another public hearing on the tax rate and budget on Sept. 8.

 


Colin KillianAbout the Author

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian)has been with the City of College Station since 2010. He previously served 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also done extensive volunteer work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and 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.


 

Photo Copyright: underverse/123RF Stock Photo

If you found value in this blog post, please share it with your social network and friends!