Posts tagged “fiscal

City’s FY20 budget addresses current, future challenges

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The City of College Station’s proposed FY 2020 budget continues the city’s focus on public safety while providing resources for essential current and future infrastructure projects.

The $341 million budget was presented to the city council on Monday at the first of three dedicated workshops at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility. Additional workshops will be Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

General Fund RevenueThe proposed budget is about $19.7 million below last year’s budget because of the timing of capital project appropriations. The governmental fund’s budget totals about $105.2 million. This includes the general fund, which pays for public safety, public works, planning and development services, and administration. Enterprise budgets such as utilities are about $146 million and capital projects are just over $71.1 million. Special revenue fund budgets such as hotel taxes, community development, roadway maintenance, and impact fees total about $18.8 million and have restricted uses.

General Fund Expenditures

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.

The proposed budget includes a 2.8777-cent increase in the property tax rate to 53.4618 cents per $100 of assessed value. Electric and wastewater rates won’t change, but a 15% increase is recommended for water rates to meet our existing and future capital infrastructure needs related to growth, and to ensure the water fund remains at stable levels in the coming years.

The first public hearing on the tax rate will be Aug. 22 at city hall. The city council will conduct public hearings on both the tax rate and budget on Sept. 12, with adoption set for Sept. 26.

“We proposed this budget in a way to address the needs of a growing community, as well as to maintain the excellent quality of life for our current residents,” City Manager Bryan Woods said. “We must, of course, always be prudent with available resources. The proposed budget attempts to take a strategic approach to address our community’s short- and long-term needs.”

While continued growth is a positive thing, the rapid pace strains city services such as public safety, transportation, and utility systems, as well as other core services.

Here are seven major points to consider about the proposed budget:

  1. Since 2009, our population has grown over 30% (about 40,000). During the same period, the student population grew nearly 34%, not counting the RELLIS Campus.
  2. Perhaps for the first time in College Station’s recent history, FY20 will see sales tax revenues being less than property tax revenues. That’s not all bad news, but it does show how sales tax can be a cyclical revenue stream.
  3. SB2, which will affect all Texas cities beginning in FY21, will limit our ability to generate the revenue needed to keep up with current needs, and certainly won’t provide a sustainable funding path for future growth.
  4. While property values are up, and we’ve seen positive developments in all parts of the city, we have seen an increase in the amount of exempt property with more than $2 billion of value now exempt. Those exemptions include much of what’s owned by the state of Texas, places of worship and faith-affiliated hospitals, seniors over the age of 65, and more.
  5. Healthcare costs continue to rise. The city has also recognized these increases, which contributes to the need to ensure salaries and benefits remain competitive for recruiting and retaining a workforce that’s able to meet our citizens’ expectations.
  6. Our employees are being asked to do far more than ever as the number of city workers per 1,000 citizens has declined. And while dozens more police and fire professionals have come aboard in the last decade — yet still fall short of recommended levels — the overall number of city employees remains relatively unchanged during that time frame.
  7. Our recent citizen survey identified a long list of city services that remain important to our residents, yet they also say we have lost ground in terms of the quality of those services.

Population Growth

Continued growth in the city’s overall and student populations must be addressed and play a major role in the budget process.

From 2010-19, College Station’s has population grown 30.5%, from 93,857 in the 2010 U.S. Census to an estimated 122,162 in 2019. The continued growth factor used in the five-year forecast is 2.5% for FY 2020-24.

The college student population grew 33.5% from 2008 to the fall of 2018. The enrollment numbers don’t include the impact of the RELLIS campus opening last fall in Bryan.

Sales Tax Revenues

Revenue sources for the General Fund include property and sales taxes, fines, service charges, and a transfer from enterprises such as utilities that are city-owned.

The sales tax rate is 8.25%, of which 6.25% goes to the state, 0.5% goes to Brazos County, and 1.5% goes to the City of College Station.

Sales tax revenue is difficult to predict since it depends on how much consumers spend. Growth in the city’s sales tax revenue has slowed substantially, rising only 2.5% in the two years from 2017 -2019.

For FY 2020, the city is budgeting only a 1% increase in sales tax revenue, well below the expected inflation rate. FY 2019 sales tax revenue is projected to fall $600,000 below budget.

FY 2021-24 forecasts include increases in sales tax revenue by 1.75% in both FY 2021 and FY 2022, and by 2% in both FY 2023 and FY 2024.

Property Values

The total net taxable certified value of property in College Station for 2019 is about $9.9 billion, an increase of 5.79% from 2018. About $308.2 million in new value was added to the tax rolls, and existing values rose by 1.88%.

Single-family homes have made up 46.6% of the total market value since FY 2013, while Multi-family has increased by 2.4%, and commercial properties have decreased by 3.0%. Properties that are exempt from ad valorem taxes – such as Texas A&M and other government-owned properties — have increased 3.1%, which has had a significant revenue impact.

Property Taxes

The City of College Station’s existing property tax rate of $.505841 per $100 of assessed value is just over 22% of the total $2.362841 rate paid by local citizens. The College Station Independent School District’s rate is $1.37200 while Brazos County is at $.485000.

Since 2010, the city’s population has grown 30.5%, while inflation has (CPI-U Index) has been 18.16%. The tax rate in that period has grown only 13.91%.

Based on the final property value numbers received, the FY 2020 effective tax rate — the rate that will raise the same revenue on the same properties — is $.495757 per $100 of assessed value. The adjusted rollback rate – the highest rate allowed before citizens can petition to lower the rate to the rollback rate – is $.534618.

Proposed Tax Rate

Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation to change the cap on the rollback rate from 8% to 3.5% effective for FY 2021. It also reduced the franchise fees the city receives for the use of rights-of-way.

Starting last spring, department directors took a critical look at departmental expenses and made recommendations to the city manager about prioritizing needs and how to address the revenue limitations.

City management recommends a proposed rate of $.534618 per $100 of assessed value, an increase of 2.8777 cents. Under the proposed rate, the owner of a $280,000 home would pay an additional $8.58 a month. Each cent on the tax rate generates about $820,000 that can be spent.

The proposed rate strategically addresses funding for existing commitments as well as known future needs. Woods recommends that about one-third of the revenue generated by the tax rate increase this year be held in the fund balance.

Financial Stability

The fund balance is the city’s safety net for emergencies or a downturn. Over the last several years actual fund balance has been between 20-25% of expenses. Bond-rating agencies encourage us to keep a balance equal to approximately 25% of expenses to get the lowest interest rates on our debt. The proposed budget formally moves the budgeted fund balance requirement from 15% to 18%. This demonstrates a commitment to maintain healthy fund balance reserves.

The FY 2020 budget is strategically designed to generate additional funds of approximately $1.5 million to begin addressing current and future public safety needs, including additional police officers and initial staffing for Fire Station No. 7. A study earlier this year found that we need 23 additional sworn officers.

Fundamental Shift

Before this year, sales taxes were the largest source of General Fund revenue. In FY 2020, sales tax provides 34.5% of the budget, while proposed property taxes provide the largest source of General Fund revenue at 35.3%.

That marks a fundamental shift in the primary revenue source for funding the majority of city services such as police, fire, and roads. The shift is small, but it represents funding stability for our existing commitments as well as a stable revenue source to provide for the needs of the future.

If approved, the city’s overall property tax rate would still rank among the lower half of Texas cities with populations of 75,000-150,000. Only five cities in our population group have a lower operations and maintenance tax rate than College Station’s proposed $.313175.

City Workforce

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 city trimmed its budget significantly in the years after the 2008 economic downturn. While the police and fire departments grew in the last decade, most other services and departments remained relatively flat.

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 accounted for 44% of the general fund budget in 2009, but by 2019, those departments comprised about 51%.

Meanwhile, the number of city employees per 1,000 population has decreased significantly from 9.7 in 2011 to 8.4 people in 2019. Most of the new city employees in the last decade have been in public safety. The Police Department has added 49 positions (both sworn and civilian) since 2010, while Fire had grown by 42 employees.

The elimination of the jail in the new police facility allows us to reclassify the detention officer positions into three police officer and five police assistant positions. Two other officers are also included in the budget.

Overall, the proposed budget adds 24 full-time equivalent employees, with 16 in public safety.  The six new firefighter positions are contingent upon the award of a federal grant, which will be determined in late August. Half of the salaries of the two new employees in parks will be covered by the Hotel Tax Fund.

Since the city provides essential services, it stands to reason that the largest general fund expense is for salaries and benefits. It’s vital that the compensation plan and benefits attract and retain qualified employees in a highly competitive environment.

City Services

Increased growth puts demands on resources and results in the need for service level increases. Service level adjustment highlights include:    

  • Police Department: 5 patrol officers and 2 vehicles; 5 police assistants.
  • Fire Department: 6 firefighters using pending SAFER Grant Award; Station-4 building maintenance.
  • Public Works: Attenuator truck, corrective facilities maintenance.
  • Parks and Recreation: Southeast Park crew Leader, grounds worker, and maintenance equipment.
  • Municipal Court: New operating software.
  • Economic Development: Economic development coordinator.
  • Information Technology: Cybersecurity service, firewall refresh, replacement software for open records requests.
  • Electric Utility: Comprehensive cost-of-service study, asset management system for substations and protection and control devices, relay foreman and vehicle, electric project coordinator/designer.
  • Water Services: Water rate restructuring review concurrent with wastewater.
  • Wastewater Services: Wastewater rate restructuring review concurrent with water, collection flow monitoring equipment.
  • Solid Waste: Street sweeper vehicle and operator.
  • Northgate: Surveillance camera system maintenance, funding for the temporary Boyett Street closure on peak nights.

Capital Projects and Infrastructure

The $71.1 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.

Significant capital projects for FY20 include:

  • Final construction of the new police station.
  • Construction of a new city hall.
  • Royder Road Phase II.
  • Greens Prairie Road from city limits west of Woodlake to Royder Road.
  • Jones Butler intersection improvements.
  • Continued digital electric meter installation.
  • Final construction of the Graham Road Electric Substation.
  • Construction of the Rock Prairie Road elevated water storage tank.
  • Construction of Northeast Sewer Trunkline Phase III.
  • Improvements to the Carters Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant centrifuge.
  • Expansion of the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
  • Completion of Southeast Park Phase I.

The 2019-20 fiscal year is shaping up as another busy one for the City of College Station, which has many formidable challenges ahead. The proposed budget provides the resources to address these challenges while laying a firm and stable foundation for our future.

 


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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Podcast: Templin says city budget process on schedule

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

This time of the year, don’t even try to find College Station City Manager Kelly Templin in his office. He’s behind closed doors with his staff, looking to the future and planning the city’s next budget.

In this week’s podcast, we talk to Mr. Templin about where things stand since the new fiscal year starts in about 90 days.

Podcast Archive (more…)


CS achieves top level for financial transparency

transparencyBy Cheryl Wright, Accounting and Treasury Operations Manager

The City of College Station’s Fiscal Services Department recently earned the distinction of becoming a platinum member of the Texas Comptroller’s Leadership Circle.

We’ve been honored in recent years with a pair of Gold Awards, but only nine of 46 cities with populations of at least 75,000 are platinum members. Before you start thinking this is boring accounting stuff and wondering why you should care, let me explain.

This distinction means the City of College Station has achieved the highest level of online financial transparency when it comes to spending your hard-earned tax dollars.

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Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (June 12)

gavel[1]

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, June 12. It’s not the official minutes.

Both meetings are being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and can also be watched online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:07 p.m.

The workshop has started.

6:13 p.m.

Council Agenda Discussion

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

  • Game Day Traffic Study: This project is a follow-up to the 2013 game day traffic study and will include traffic management and implementation plans. The Texas A&M University System has contracted with Texas A&M Transportation Institute for $200,000 to complete the project. The remaining partners will contract individually with the system to fund their respective costs — $35,000 each from Texas A&M Transportation, Texas A&M University System, City of Bryan, 12th Man Foundation, and City of College Station, and $25,000 from the CVB.
  • Wastewater Capacity Study: Water Services routinely monitors the flow levels in the wastewater collection system, and excessive flows during rain events have been detected in the Northgate and Southwood Valley sewer shed areas. The sources of this inflow must be identified and corrected to regain the capacity in the sewer mains and lift stations. This study will identify potential pipe failures, hydraulic capacity issues, and possible illegal connections. In addition, rehabilitation projects will be identified and prioritized. The study will be paid for with wastewater operating funds.

6:27 p.m.  (more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]The College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings. Here are five items to watch: (more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (March 27)

gavel[1]This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, March 27. It’s not the official minutes.

Both meetings are being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and can also be watched online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:08 p.m.

The workshop meeting has started.

6:19 p.m.

Consent Agenda Discussion

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

  • Toni Court Parking Removal: The council discussed the possible removal of parking along the west side of Keefer Loop from Rock Prairie Road to Toni Court, and on the south side and cul-de-sac of Toni Court in the Buena Vida Subdivision. The changes were recommended primarily to allow easier access for emergency vehicles.
  • Stop Loss Policy for City’s Health Plan: The council discussed the renewal of the stop loss policy for the city’s self-funded health plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. Stop loss coverage protects the city from specific large medical or prescription drug claims and from an aggregate amount of overall high claims. BlueCross Blue Shield has been the city’s stop loss vendor for almost a decade. This is the second renewal of the original contract from plan year 2012. The renewal includes no increase to the premium from last year. The 2014 plan year projected costs are based on a monthly average of 806 employees, retirees and COBRA participants on the plan.

6:27 p.m.  (more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]The College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings. Here are five items to watch: (more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (Feb. 13)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, Feb. 13. It’s not the official minutes.

Both meetings are being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and can also be watched online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:15 p.m.

The workshop has started.

6:53 p.m.

Aggies Go to War Exhibit

The council heard a presentation on the Aggies Go to War exhibit, which will highlight the contribution of Aggies in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and commemorate to opening of the Bastogne War Museum in Belgium later this year. The Texas A&M University System and the B/CS community have been invited to participate. The exhibit would follow the life paths of five Aggies who were involved in the battle and would market the university and community to an international audience.

(more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]The College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings. Here are five items to watch: (more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]Here are five items to watch when the College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings:  (more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]Here are five items to watch when the College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings:   (more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (July 25)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, July 25. It’s not the official minutes.

Both meetings are being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and can also be watched online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:00 p.m.

The workshop has started.

6:18 p.m.

National Sojourners Presentation

College Station Cemetery Sexton Bob Hole (pictured below just over Mayor Nancy Berry’s right shoulder) was recognized by Brazos Valley Chapter 378 of National Sojourners for his work to identify veteran graves for flag placement and collection twice each year. More than 800 graves are marked at the College Station City Cemetery, the Aggie Field of Honor and Memorial Cemetery. Also recognizing Mr. Hole were representatives of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Children of the American Revolution, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans.  (more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (April 25)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, April 25. It’s not the official minutes.

Both meetings are being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and can also be watched online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:01 p.m.

The workshop has started. Mayor Nancy Berry and Councilmember James Benham are absent tonight.

(more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]Here are five items to watch when the College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings:   (more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]Here are five items to watch when the College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings:   (more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (Feb. 14)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, Feb. 14. It’s not the official minutes.

Both meetings are being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and can also be watched online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:15 p.m.

The council is still in executive session. The workshop will start in a few minutes.

6:21 p.m.

The workshop meeting has started.

(more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s City Council Meetings (Oct. 25)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, Oct. 25. It’s not the official minutes.

The workshop and regular meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. An archive of previous council meetings also is available on the site.

6:14 p.m.

The workshop meeting has started. Council member Blanche Brick is absent tonight.

6:17 p.m.

Mayor Nancy Berry presented a proclamation recognizing Nov. 9 as Buddy Poppy Day. Receiving the proclamation were Gerry Hince (left), auxiliary president of the American Legion – Earl Graham Post 159 in Bryan, and auxiliary treasurer Gail Marion (right).

(more…)


Five Things to Watch at Thursday’s City Council Meetings

The College Station City Council will meet on Thursday at city hall for its workshop (3 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings.  With so many key items on this week’s agenda, the council will start its workshop at 3 p.m., and after breaking for the executive session at 5, will resume the workshop at 6. The regular meeting will start at 7 p.m., as usual.

Here are five things to watch on Thursday:

1.      FY13 Proposed Budget and Tax Rate: After reviewing the $253.1 million budget proposal and making final changes during the workshop, the council will adopt the budget and new tax rate in the regular meeting.  The proposed budget reduces the property tax rate for the second straight year and focuses on providing efficient core services with an emphasis on public safety and infrastructure. The city’s FY12 tax rate already was the fifth lowest in the state among similar-sized cities. A 5 percent increase is proposed for wastewater rates, but the budget includes no other utility rate increases.

(more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s City Council Meetings (July 26)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, July 26. It’s not the official minutes.

The workshop and regular meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. An archive of previous council meetings also is available on the site.

6:04 p.m.

The workshop meeting has started. Council member Jess Fields is absent.

7:01 p.m.

Economic Development Master Plan

The council heard an update on the first phase of the Economic Development Master Plan, which is being prepared as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The first phase focuses on demographics, socioeconomic data, a preliminary assessment of market conditions, and preliminary identification of opportunities and challenges in the local market.

(more…)


City Council Meeting Preview (July 26)

Here’s a quick look at some of the items the College Station City Council will be discussing at its workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, July 26. This blog is not the complete and official agenda.

The workshop and regular meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. Previous council meetings are archived on the website. A detailed live blog from the meetings will be posted on this site and can also be accessed through the city’s Facebook page.

Workshop Meeting (6 p.m.)

Economic Development Master Plan

The council will receive an update on the first phase of the Economic Development Master Plan, which is being prepared as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The first phase focuses on demographics and socio-economic data, a preliminary assessment of specific market conditions, and preliminary identification of opportunities and challenges in the local market.

(more…)


Live Blog: Thursday’s City Council Meetings (May 24)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, May 24. It is not the official minutes.

The workshop and regular meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. An archive of previous council meetings also is available on the site.

8:35 p.m.

After discussing the council calendar, future agenda items and receiving committee reports, the workshop meeting has been adjourned. The next council meeting is scheduled for June 14.

8:31 p.m.

The regular meeting has been adjourned. The council will now resume its workshop agenda.

8:30 p.m.

TCEQ Public Meeting Request

The council unanimously approved a request to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to schedule a public meeting to receive stakeholder comments about a proposed permit to operate a private landfill northwest of the intersection of Stewarts Meadow and Raymond Stotzer Parkway. The proposed private landfill would contain about 4.2 million cubic yards of material and will reach its capacity in 7.4 years. The scale of the proposed facility could significantly affect the quality of life for residents and property owners in College Station and its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

(more…)


Live Blog: Monday’s City Council Meetings (May 14)

This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Monday, May 14. It is not the official minutes.

The workshop and regular meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. An archive of previous council meetings also is available on the site.

9:04 p.m.

The workshop meeting has adjourned. The council meets again May 24.

8:46 p.m.

The regular meeting has been adjourned. The council will now complete the workshop agenda, including the council calendar, future agenda items, committee reports and the council’s strategic plan.

(more…)


Previewing Monday’s City Council Meetings (May 14)

Here’s a quick overview of some of the items the College Station City Council will be discussing at its workshop and regular meetings on Monday, May 14. This blog is not a complete and official agenda.

The workshop and regular meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. Previous council meetings are archived on the website. A detailed live blog from the meetings will be posted on this site and also can be accessed through the city’s Facebook page.

Workshop Meeting (6 p.m.)

Strategic Plan and Budget Update

The council will receive updates on the Strategic Plan and the process for the Fiscal Year 2013 city budget.

(more…)