— By BRIAN SMITH
Much of Weatherford City Council’s budget work session Tuesday focused on how to increase the city’s street maintenance budget.
City staff is trying to increase the roads budget from last year’s $663,000 to between $1.2 million and $1.4 million in response to a report earlier this year by the company that completed a city streets survey.
The city had proposed a 1.35-cent increase in the ad valorem tax rate, which would have raised approximately $230,000, but the council rejected that at an Aug. 13 meeting.
Through cuts and other measures, the council has budgeted about $900,000 for street maintenance in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
Council members came up with several ways to potentially make cuts in other parts of the budget to make up the $230,000, including cutting the library $1.04 million budget by anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000, not mowing the city’s portion of Ric Williamson Memorial Highway, which would save an estimated $37,500, and not funding a planned part-time office assistant to work with all departments on a floating basis were brought up but nothing decided.
City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said the city would be in violation of its own ordinance by not mowing in the city limits Director of Management and Budget Chad Janicek said if the library budget is cut much below the present $1.04 million, the library stands to lose its accreditation, which could keep it from qualiyfing for grant monies.
Blaisdell said the city is trying to get back to basics.
“We need to determine what we need so we can determine what programs that we need to cut,” Blaisdell said.
“Do we cut some programs so we can have what everyone seems to want — a nice street in front of their home and nice streets to travel on?”
Council member Jeff Robinson suggested taking the $900,000 budgeted for street maintenance and simply see where the city roads are in a year.
“We went to the homeowners earlier this year for the increase in the storm utility fund,” Robinson said. “We could possibly move some money from the Heritage Park restoration just one time for street repair.”
Council gave no clear direction as to what way they wanted city staff to proceed. Public hearings on the budget and tax rate are scheduled for Sept. 10. A final reading of the budget ordinance is scheduled for Sept. 24, with the budget to take effect Oct. 1.