Weatherford Democrat

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September 3, 2012

City looks at $25 million budget

WEATHERFORD — Weatherford city council members and staff, like many of their counterparts statewide, are finishing up work on the Fiscal Year 2012-13 budgets, which must be approved during the month of September.

The city is looking at a $25.3 million general fund budget for next year, about half of that designated toward public safety, according to the budget. Last year’s proposed budget was $24.6 million but the city is expected to close the current budget year in August with a budget around $25.26 million.

The city has gone from operating from a deficit during this year’s budget to operating in a surplus for next fiscal year. Part of this comes from expected increases in both sales tax and property tax revenue.

The city also received a solid jump in its hotel and motel tax monies. The city had considered allowing the chamber of commerce to distribute the monies, which are used by non-profits for some of their yearly funding. Janicek said after discussion and meeting with the groups affected, that will not be taking place this year

Last year’s fund balance at the time of budget adoption was $8.09 million. This year, it is projected to be $8.34 million, or about 123 days. The state requires 90 days revenue as a fund balance but the city likes to have around 120, Director of Management and Budget Chad Janicek said.

The assessed value of taxable property grew 1.2 percent to $1,821,201,706 for this fiscal year. Janicek said the city is also upping its expected collection rate from 96.8 to 97.5 percent for the upcoming budget. A projected tax rate of 46.36 cents per $100 valuation. 29.2 cents would go toward maintenance and operation with the rest going toward the city’s debt service.

Despite an expected 8.4 percent growth in sales tax revenue, Janicek and staff are projecting only a modest 1.5 percent increase for the upcoming year.

“With sales tax being so volatile depending on the economy, we wanted to prepare for a modest increase in case  it drops,” Janicek said. “We wanted to be conservative but still remain optimistic in that regard.”

This year’s budget also includes a 2 percent cost of living allowance and a 2 percent merit incentive for all departments, which was council directed.

This budget proposal includes requests for software packages intended to improve data distribution, increase transparency and cooperation with residents, and hopefully reduce the need for formal public information requests which have demanded a significant amount of staff resources in the last few years.

The city has had work sessions with the council to receive direction on which ways to spend the budget. Some discussion has come on which way to fund a $500,000 fire engine. After weeks of discussion, the decision was made at Tuesday night’s meeting to make the one time payment for the equipment instead of paying it out via a lease program.

Janicek said because of that, some adjustments had to be made to other programs. Work on the North Branch library, which was to be placed in the Harberger Hill Community Center, will not be happening as well as construction of a parking lot on Lee Street adjacent to the pool.

Other adjustments were made in the animal shelter budget. The city will not be installing remote kiosks so the public can see what animals are at the shelter or building a structure for cats. A coordinator to work with the different volunteer groups has also been eliminated from the budget.

The city will be taking $70,000 of the $160,000 in animal shelter cuts and hiring some new kennel technicians, Janicek said.

The budget is available for public viewing in the city secretary’s office at City Hall or online at www.weatherfordtx.gov/budget.

Public input will be taken until Sept. 11 and at a public hearing scheduled that night during the city council meeting. Budget approval is scheduled at the Sept. 25 meeting.

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