Public Communications

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.


 

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Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (Aug. 9)

(L-R): Bob Brick, Linda Harvell, Jerome Rektorik, Karl Mooney (mayor), John Nichols, Barry Moore, James Benham.

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Welcome to our live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, Aug. 9. It’s not the official minutes.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink channel 19 or online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

Bear with me, folks — usual blogger Colin Killian is out tonight, so I’ll do my best to keep up. -jgs

Complete agendas and background materials
Previous city council meeting blogs

5:08 p.m.

The workshop has started. No action was taken out of executive session.

Councilman James Benham is participating by teleconference.

Consent Agenda Discussion

The council will vote on items listed on the consent agenda during tonight’s regular meeting. Councilmembers pulled these consent items for workshop discussion:

  • Approving an interlocal agreement with Brazos County for the conduct and management of the College Station general and special election to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
  • A construction contract with DKing Express LLC for $141,399 for repairs to the two existing sand volleyball courts at Barracks Park.
  • A contract with Brazos Paving Inc for base failure repairs and Type-D HMAC installation in an amount not to exceed $5,000,000.
  • Renewal of the interlocal agreement with the City of Bryan for management of the Larry J. Ringer Public Library.

5:20 p.m.

FY 2018-19 Proposed Budget

Staff presented main points of the proposed budget that council members will discuss in greater detail during upcoming budget workshops (Aug. 20-22). The full proposed budget can be viewed here. Among tonight’s highlights:

  • The proposed budget is $360,680,102 (1.37% lower than FY18)
  • Budget reflects a 5% homestead exemption voted on by council in June.
  • To remain revenue neutral due to the homestead exemption, a tax increase of 0.8341 cent per $100 valuation is included in the proposed budget.
  • A 5% increase to the wastewater rate would begin in October to keep up with capital system improvements due to growth and aging infrastructure.
  • Pay increase for police to ensure market competitiveness, as well as a pay increase structure for fire personnel. Also funds for more police body cameras, and fire vehicles and rescue equipment.
  • Funding for facility maintenance, street maintenance, implementation of neighborhood plans, construction of Southeast Park and renovations throughout the parks system.
  • Street and transportation capital projects, including Greens Prairie Road and Greens Prairie Trail extensions, Royder Road Phase III, and Cain/Deacon railroad crossing relocation.
  • Library expansion, new police station, initial phases of new city hall, and renovations to create a senior and community center at Dartmouth/Colgate.
  • Advanced Meter Infrastructure implementation for CSU-Electric.
  • Continued implementation of new pay structure with necessary salary adjustments + 1.5% pool for merit-based increases.

Public hearings on the proposed tax rate will occur on Sept. 5 and Sept. 13, and a public hearing on the proposed budget will also occur on Sept. 13. Adoption of the budget and tax rate is scheduled for Sept. 27. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

 

5:36 p.m.

Neighborhood Conservation Overlay process

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

 

6:20 p.m.

After considerable discussion among council members and city staff, Mayor Mooney suspended the workshop meeting since it was running long. The regular meeting will begin after a short break and then council will resume its workshop meeting.

6:30 p.m.

The regular meeting has started.

6:32 p.m.

Camp Kesem Week (Aug. 12-17) at Texas A&M University was recognized by Mayor Karl Mooney. Pictured with Mayor Mooney are students Samantha Buchanan and Hannah Lykins.

councilpresentationkesem8-9-18

6:36 p.m.

Hear Visitors

During the Hear Visitors portion of the meeting, citizens are able to address the council on any item that doesn’t appear on the posted agenda.

  • Mr. Fred Dupriest, representing the College Station Association of Neighborhoods (CSAN), addressed the council about the neighborhood conservation overlay process. Here is his PowerPoint presentation:

 

  • Mr. Jerry Cooper complimented city staff on the efforts undertaken toward ensuring a fair neighborhood conservation overlay process.
  • Mr. Buck Prewitt expressed his desire for additional clarification about specific parts of the NCO process, realizing that the council is unable to respond to citizen comments during this portion of the meeting.

 

6:56 p.m.

Consent Agenda

The council voted unanimously to approve the entire consent agenda, with the exception of item 2b, which relates to ordering a general and special election for two city council races and placement of multiple proposed amendments to the city’s charter. That item will be voted on separately. Items passed unanimously:

  • Ordinance, in part, ordering a general and special election on Nov. 6, 2018 to elect city council members to Places 4 and 6, and to submit proposed amendments to the city’s charter.
  • Approving interlocal agreement with Brazos County for the conduct and management of the City of College Station General and Special Election that will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.
  • Resolution of the interlocal agreement with the City of Bryan, City of Brenham, Brazos County, Washington County, Texas A&M University, Grimes County and Brazos Valley Council of Governments; designating the Brazos Valley Council of Governments as the Managing Entity for the Brazos Valley Wide Area Communications System (BVWACS)
  • A construction contract with Kieschnick General Contractors, in the amount
    of $830,078 for the construction of the State Highway 6 waterline phases I and II.
  • Calling a public hearing on the City of College Station FY 2018-2019 Proposed Budget for Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 6:00 PM in the City Hall Council Chambers.
  • A bid award for the annual purchase of single phase pad-mounted transformers, which will be maintained in electrical inventory and expended as needed. The total recommended award is $224,500 to Priester-Mell & Nicholson, Inc.
  • An amendment to the lease agreement with CEO, Etc., Inc. for lease of City Fiber Optic Cable Facilities.
  • Approval of the construction contract with DKing Express, LLC. in the amount of $141,399 for repairs to the two existing sand volleyball courts at the Barracks Park.
  • A bid award for the annual blanket order for electric meters and sockets, to be stored in inventory.
  • Approval of a resolution adopting the proposed FY 2019 Community Development Budget and PY 2018 Annual Action Plan.
  • The second reading of a franchise agreement with Organix Recycling, LLC.; for the collection of recyclables from commercial businesses and multi-family locations.
  • The approval of a contract with Brazos Paving, Inc. for base failure repairs and Type D HMAC installation in an amount not to exceed $5,000,000.
  • Amending the Code of Ordinances and a resolution that established the fees, rates, and charges regarding establishing fees for the regulation of dockless bike share programs permitted to operate in the City.
  • A letter agreement for year 1 of the Professional Auditing Services engagement with BKD, LLP for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018 with expenditures totaling $84,000.
  • Renewal of the Interlocal Agreement with the City of Bryan for Management of the
    Larry J. Ringer Library.
  • A bid award for the annual purchase of sodium hypochlorite, the liquid-chlorine
    disinfection product used to treat the potable water supply at the Sandy Point Pump Station.

 

Place-5 Councilman John Nichols read a prepared statement opposing consent item 2b. due to his objection to the proposed charter amendment that would extend council terms from three to four years, and holding elections only during even-numbered years. By a vote of 6 in favor and 1 abstention (Nichols), item 2b passed.

7:15 p.m.

Rezoning from Planned Development District to Wellborn Restricted Suburban

This proposed rezoning applies to 21 acres of land located just south of the intersection of Greens Prairie Road West and Royder Road. Council approved this item by a vote of 7-0.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

 

Appointments to the Zoning Board of Adjustments

Mr. James Sharp was appointed by council to fill an unexpired term on the ZBA.

7:23 p.m.

Mayor Mooney adjourned the regular meeting. The workshop meeting has resumed with item #6, an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance related to the neighborhood conservation overlay process.

Among the council’s direction to staff was to sufficiently notify all residents who may be part of planned meetings related to an NCO effort, as well as those who may live or own property in proximity of such planned meetings. Among the council suggestions was the burden of mail notification being on city staff via the applicant paying a “notification fee,” rather than an application fee, to only cover those hard costs.

There was also great interest among some council members in giving neighborhoods seeking an NCO to have as many options available to them as possible as they construct their petition to the city.

Staff will take council’s collective direction and bring back a revised ordinance to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and then again to the city council.

8:25 p.m.

Meeting is adjourned.

 


About the Blogger

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his ninth 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. A native of Breckenridge, TX, he also serves as immediate past-president of the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.


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5 things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (5 p.m.) and regular (6 p.m.) meetings.

Here are five items to watch:

  1. Proposed FY19 City Budget: In the workshop, the council will get its first look at the city’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year. After a series of budget workshops (Aug. 20-22) and public hearings on the tax rate (Sept. 5) and budget (Sept. 13), the council is scheduled to adopt the budget Sept. 27.
  2. Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts: Another workshop item is a continued discussion about clarifying the process for establishing Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts as well as options to change that section of the city’s Unified Development Ordinance.
  3. State Highway 6 Water Line: As part of the consent agenda, the council will consider an $830,078 contract for construction of water lines from the intersection of State Highway 6 and William D. Fitch Parkway to Venture Drive and from the future intersection of Pebble Creek Parkway to St. Joseph Urgent Care.
  4. Community Development Budget and Action Plan: Another consent agenda item is the Fiscal Year 2019 Community Development Budget and Program Year 2018 Action Plan, which includes objectives and recommendations for projects and programs that support the low-to-moderate income population.
  5. Wellborn Rezoning: After a public hearing, the council will consider a request to change the zoning from Planned Development District to Wellborn Restricted Suburban for about 21 acres south of the Greens Prairie Road West-Royder Road intersection.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Channels 19 or online. We’ll post a detailed live blog on this site.

Related Links:                                                                 

 


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.


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Share your love of nature as a Lick Creek volunteer

By Hallie Hutchins, Parks & Recreation Marketing Assistant

If you enjoy the great outdoors and love to talk about it, you have what it takes to be a volunteer guide – or docent – at the Lick Creek Nature Center.

The Parks and Recreation Department is training a cadre of park lovers to be program leaders, tour guides and docents to enhance the overall guest experience by creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere. A free orientation will be Saturday, Aug. 18 from noon-3 p.m. at the Lick Creek Nature Center at 13600 Rock Prairie Road – and we’ll provide lunch.

Docents must be at least 18 years old and able to volunteer eight hours a semester.

The orientation will explore how a nature center operates, including environmental education, customer service, programming, exhibits and outdoor activities. Recreation Supervisor Virginia Godwin and the Lick Creek Nature Center staff will lead the session.

Regardless of your background, we’ll equip you with all you need. Take advantage of the opportunity to help provide quality outdoor science education to our community while sharing your knowledge and appreciation of Lick Creek Park.

To register, call 979-764-6216 or stop by the Lick Creek Nature Center.

 


About the Blogger

Hallie Hutchins is in her fourth year as marketing staff assistant in the Parks & Recreation Department after graduating from Texas A&M in 2014 with a degree in sports management. She has previously worked with the Dallas Sidekicks professional soccer team and Texas Team Junior Golf. Originally from White Oak, Hallie also attended Kilgore College and was a member of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes dance team.


 

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Games of Texas drops $7.7 million into community

By Kelli Nesbitt, Parks & Recreation Marketing Coordinator

Whenever you play host to a large-scale event that attracts thousands of visitors, you expect it to have a substantial impact on the local economy.

From July 26-30, 7,621 athletes from across the state competed in 11 sports in the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation’s Summer Games of Texas. The Olympic-like festival had only 225 local participants, which means the rest – along with about 19,000 of their coaches, family members, and friends – were visitors staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, and shopping in our stores.

The estimated economic impact of all that activity? A cool $7.7 million.

Despite hot weather conditions, the games’ spirit and atmosphere thrived, thanks to hundreds of volunteers and the wholehearted support of our community. We heard scores of positive comments, with many participants saying this was the best Games of Texas to date.

Photos: 2018 TAAF Games of Texas

Here’s the breakdown of participants by sport:

Sport Participants Venue
Archery 52 Texas A&M Physical Education Building
Judo 81 Texas A&M Physical Education Building
Golf 58 The City Course at Phillips Event Center
Lifeguard Competition 60 Bryan Aquatic Center
Pickleball 77 Lincoln Recreation Center
Sand Volleyball 40 Texas A&M Student Recreation Center
Skateboarding 19 Williamson Skate Park
Soccer 304 Veterans Park & Athletic Complex
Swimming 2,472 Texas A&M Student Recreation Center
Tennis 152 Texas A&M Mitchell Tennis Center
Track & Field 4,306 College Station High School
Total Participation 7,621

Here are some interesting tidbits reported by the Bryan and College Station Parks and Recreation Departments, which partnered with Texas A&M to manage the event:

  • Athletes set 72 Games of Texas records.
  • Participants and volunteers consumed 22,000 bottles of water and used 32,120 pounds of ice.
  • Local sponsors donated 1,165 meals for participants and volunteers.
  • 328 volunteers assisted, including 93 from the Texas Army National Guard.
  • 390 gold medals were awarded in track & field and swimming.
  • 271 tennis matches were played over two days.

If you missed out on the fun, don’t fret. The Games of Texas will return to Bryan-College Station July 25-29, 2019.

On behalf of the Cities of Bryan and College Station, we extend a special thank you to our volunteers, TAAF liaisons, commissioners and Texas Army National Guard Warriors. The overwhelming success of the event is a direct reflection of your dedication. We sincerely appreciate your gift of time, energy, and enthusiastic support.

 


About the Blogger

Kelli Nesbitt (@kneztalk) has served the Parks & Recreation Department for 14 years, the last seven as marketing coordinator. A native of Bryan, Kelli earned a bachelor’s degree in health & kinesiology from Sam Houston State.


 

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Closing Boyett on busiest nights makes Northgate safer

By Gus Roman, Assistant Director of Community Services

If you’ve ever driven through the Northgate Entertainment District on a Friday or Saturday night, you know it’s an immensely popular place for college students to get revved up for Aggie football or just unwind after a long week of classes.

You also know it can be an extraordinarily dangerous place for unwary pedestrians. With more than 60,000 students walking, driving and bicycling around campus, safety has to be the top priority for local authorities.

The city has worked closely with Texas A&M and The Texas Department of Transportation to devise and implement various safety improvements along University Drive. In 2012, Old College Main was closed at University Drive, and we added a bicycle and pedestrian crossing.

Still, with one of the nation’s most populous universities across the street, pedestrian safety remains a dominant issue – especially at the intersection of University and Boyett Street.

Despite the presence of a signalized crosswalk, many pedestrians blatantly ignore the signal and haphazardly move through the bustling traffic. Meanwhile, ride-booking services and taxis often stop in traffic lanes to serve their customers.

We may not be able to stop that reckless behavior, but we can try to reduce the risk.

That’s why starting this week, Boyett Street will be closed between University Drive and Patricia Street from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The intersection will also be closed Wednesday, Aug. 29, the night before the Aggie football opener against Northwestern State. No parking will be allowed on the sealed portion of Boyett.

The closure includes the area in front of Shiner Park, O’Bannon’s Tap House and a few other bars, along with two entrances to the corner convenience store.

Whenever Boyett is closed, the southern row of the Northgate parking lot will serve as a designated loading area for ride-booking customers. To help traffic flow, we renumbered and restriped the lot to accommodate angled spaces. Plenty of additional parking is available in the city’s Northgate Parking Garage, which has more than 700 affordable spaces.

These adjustments may be inconvenient for some, but in the end, we’ll have a safer, more pedestrian-friendly environment in Northgate.

 


About the Blogger

Gus Roman has been with the City of College Station since 2015 and has served as assistant director of community services since 2016. He’s also worked for the City of San Marcos and the City of Bryan. Gus previously served the City of College Station from 1995-2003. He has two degrees from Texas A&M – a bachelor’s in building construction (1989) and a master’s in agriculture, land economics and real estate (2006).


 

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