City Manager

Council reviews proposed budget during workshops

Budget4

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

36713085 - 2017 budget  word under torn black sugar paper

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!


		
	

Podcast: Why our citizen survey results look like others in Texas

Podcast

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Last spring, the city of College Station conducted its first comprehensive citizen survey in four years. The idea, of course, was to measure how College Station citizens feel about the services and programs we deliver, along with other quality-of-life aspects. In the end, the data helps city council and staff make budget and policy decisions.

In this edition of the podcast, City Manager Kelly Templin discusses which survey results really stood out to him and why similar results are being seen in almost every Texas city.

Podcast Archive

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to hear to the audio file from your system.

 


csf_jsocolAbout the Author

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his seventh year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. He’s a native of Breckenridge.


 

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

 


Podcast: One-time top cop “blessed” by new career

Soundcloudcap

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

After a 25-year career that began with patrolling the Texas A&M campus and then the streets of College Station, Jeff Capps eventually became chief of the College Station Police Department. In 2014, he traded his badge and uniform for a decidedly different role in the city organization: assistant city manager.

In this edition of the city’s podcast, Capps talked about his most memorable moments from two decades in law enforcement, how tough it was to transition into city management and the irony of a former top cop now overseeing the fire department.

Podcast Archive

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to listen to the audio file from your system.

 


csf_jsocolAbout the Author

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his seventh year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. He’s a native of Breckenridge.


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


Podcast: How Kersten evolved from lifeguard to budget man

Jeff

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

If you start out as a lifeguard and work hard, then you, too, can someday become an assistant city manager of a mid-sized university community. That’s the true story of Jeff Kersten, longtime budget and finance savant for the City of College Station.

Kersten spent his first visit to the podcast guest seat talking about his career path, what it’s like to shift fiscal priorities whenever a new city council or city manager comes along, and what he sees as the city’s financial challenges in the future.

After a tacky start to the interview, Kersten and I got down to business.

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to listen to the audio file from your system.

 

Podcast Archive


csf_jsocolAbout the Author

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his seventh year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. He is a native of Breckenridge.


 

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

 


Podcast: College Station’s Deputy City Manager Chuck Gilman

Podcast

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Some of College Station’s largest departments are Electric, Water, Public Works, Parks and Planning — and they all answer to the same guy: Deputy City Manager Chuck Gilman.

In this podcast, the civil engineer talks about his unplanned path to being second-in-charge, why he obsesses over unresolved issues he sees when driving around town, and how he’d love to find a way — in a perfect world — to stagger the start times of schools (including Texas A&M) to ease traffic congestion.

Podcast Archive (more…)