BY JUDY SHERIDAN
Aledo City Council members got their first look Thursday at a new $5.5 million budget proposed by City Administrator Ken Pfeifer. Last year, the council approved a $4.7 million budget.
The proposed fiscal year 2014 budget is up about 20 percent from the budget adopted last year in both the general fund and the water/wastewater fund, substantial increases.
On the revenue side of the general fund, sales taxes are projected to rise by about 20 percent and property taxes by about 15 percent.
Projected expenditures would support a second deputy from the Parker County Sheriff’s Office and a new law enforcement vehicle, as well as a customer service/receptionist. A worker in the Streets Department would move to full time, with another to come on board full time in April of next year.
In the water/wastewater fund, impact fees are paying for new water and sewer lines. The budget shows $140,000 for the purchase of water from the City of Fort Worth, new this year.
Water and sewer rates might not increase next year, Pfeifer told the council, adding that the city’s consultant had not yet completed his annual rate study.
“I believe we will not need a rate increase,” he said, “but I don’t see an opportunity for rate reduction.”
After remaining almost flat for the last several years, the city’s assessed values rose 8 percent this year, according to preliminary tax rolls released by the Parker County Appraisal District, from $168.6 million to $182.2 million.
About $6.2 million of that is due to new construction, according to Chief Appraiser Larry Hammonds.
The impact on revenues is so substantial that the city expects to lower its tax rate slightly — from 38.43 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 38.40 cents per $100 assessed valuation — to avoid triggering a rollback election.
A chart presented by Pfeifer Thursday showed that the city anticipates issuing 41 residential and 3 commercial building permits by the end of fiscal year 2013, with about the same expected by the end of next year.
Shary Street and the remaining Hidden Valley area are the targets for the $100,000 in street repairs the city budgets for annually, with future rehabilitation slated for the Lasater and Rolling Hills additions.
The amount to be spent on animal control has doubled — from $5,000 to $10,000 — reflecting a significant increase in the number of animal control calls.
“It concerns me that vicious animal calls have risen,” said Public Works Director Gordon Smith, whose department handles the calls.
The proposal to add a second deputy due to anticipated increases in residential and commercial growth drew questions from council member Kerby Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Bill McLeRoy, who asked for more information on the new officer’s scope and schedule.
Looking ahead to fiscal year 2015, Pfeifer showed how the expenses to establish a city police department would be almost identical to paying two deputies from the Sheriff’s Office, with both scenarios at about $175,000.
“I bring this out a year prior to when we’ll be discussing it,” he said. “A lot of cities have already started their police departments.”
McLeRoy suggested the city also consider hiring a professional economic development director.
Sue Ellen Shaw, director of the East Parker County Library, and Stephen Watson, of the Aledo Fire Department and Emergency Services District No. 1, asked the city for $12,000 and $50,000, respectively.
The library request is double the amount the city usually gives to the library. The Aledo Fire Department received $50,000 last year, but became part of ESD No. 1, a taxing entity, through an election this spring.
Shaw championed the role of the library in supporting the diverse needs of the community, from school children to older residents. She said it was time for the library to move forward with a long-term vision.
“You’ve asked us to double our donations, but we don’t have all the patrons,” Council Member Jean Bailey responded.
“I’d like to see other cities step forward and provide the support they need to,” said McLeRoy.
Mayor Kit Marshall suggested the library extend its hours into the evening to accommodate commuters.
Later, Pfeifer told the council he had upped the library’s funding; the new budget shows an increase of $1,000.
Much of the discussion with the Aledo Fire Department centered around the tax schedule, with the council trying to determine if providing a donation would mean that city residents would be taxed twice — through the donation as well as through the tax to be assessed by ESD No. 1, to which they now belong.
“Given the timing of the election and where that falls in the tax schedule, we’re actually enduring a 17-month interim before we’ll realize any tax revenue,” Watson said, “so it’s my request on behalf the district and the fire department for the city to continue its $50,000 funding contribution for one final year in the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“This will help offset some of the impact to the district’s cash reserves, keep the boat afloat during that time and also be a catalyst to help us move forward on some of the infrastructure improvements.”
City Attorney Betsy Elam, Pfeifer, Bailey and Smith, however, were not convinced the 17-month funding gap was accurate, with the main point of contention being when Aledo properties would be added to the tax roll for assessment.
Pfeifer, for example, said he thought there was only a three-month gap.
Watson agreed to do more research and come back to the council.
“We were here on the premise that’s there’s an entire tax year and fiscal year gap,” he said. “Otherwise we would not be here.”
The first public hearing on the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget will be Aug. 22, and the second public hearing will be during a special council session on Sept. 12. The budget will be adopted and the tax rate set at the regular Sept. 26 council meeting.