By BRIAN SMITH
Weatherford residents may pay more in property taxes this coming year to help maintain city streets.
City council members got their first look at the Fiscal Year 2014 budget during a special meeting Tuesday night. Under the proposed budget, residents would pay an additional 1.35 cents per $100 valuation, which would be dedicated for street maintenance, Director of Management and Budget Chad Janicek said.
The impetus for the street maintenance came after a recent street survey and report determined the city needs to spend between $1.2 million and $1.4 million a year to keep the streets in “good” condition, which the report said they were, based on a pavement condition index score. The report showed the city spends about $663,000 on street maintenance. Additional funds for streets will come from an anticipated 1 percent growth in the city’s sales tax revenue, Janicek said. The increase is conservative, Janicek said, but with work on South Main Street winding down, there is a possibility for even more growth.
City officials were considering a 2-cent increase but were able to trim the proposal through other program adjustments.
Hearings on the proposed tax rate increase are scheduled for Aug. 26 and Sept. 10. Council members are expected to vote to set the hearings at their meeting Aug. 12. The meeting will not set the tax rate, but is done to officially set the dates for the hearings.
Council member Heidi Wilder said she was uncomfortable with a tax increase but also with placing sales tax growth monies into the streets.
“It’s too unstable,” Wilder said about sales tax monies. “We need to see if we can find another way to get the monies for the streets.”
The proposed general fund budget has an estimated $25.8 million in estimated revenue and $26.56 million in expenditures, forcing the city to use approximately $765,000 of its fund balance to balance the budget. Janicek says the city will still have approximately 122 days left of money to run the city in the fund balance.
Savings from last year were noted in a number of areas, including the consolidation of the special projects and municipal and community services department, which will allow for the trimming of one position due to attrition and also converting a director to an assistant director position. In all, the move will cut $130,000 from the proposed budget.
Having the Weatherford Economic Development Authority become a city department will save an estimated $45,000 through the elimination of an executive assistant, Janicek said.
The city will also try and bring back some of the employees lost during cutback in 2008, adding two groundskeepers to the Parks and Recreation Department. The department will still be short three people from its pre-2008 numbers.
An additional part-time office assistant will also be added in the city manager’s office to work with all city departments during their “busy times” which fluctuate throughout the year.
City employees will also receive a 2 percent cost-of-living allowance beginning in January.
City staff are also looking to begin work on the council’s Strategic Plan, which was developed earlier this year. Work on a citizen survey, the re-development of a Citizen Capital Advisory Committee, and continued improvements to the First Monday Trade Grounds are all taking place during the next fiscal year.
Council members will have a chance to discuss the budget with department directors during a work session Saturday, Aug. 17, at Chandor Gardens.
The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.