— By BRIAN SMITH
At least for the upcoming fiscal year, Weatherford city officials have decided that $902,000 is enough for street materials.
Since a recent presentation suggested the city up its present street materials budget from this year’s $663,000 to $1.2 million to $1.4 million, council members have been trying to find ways to raise the funding to that level.
Through some reorganization and cuts, street materials funding for FY 2014 is now $902,000, which City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said is good enough for the coming year.
“This is not going to be cured in one year,” Blaisdell said. “Our goal of maintaining the fund balance has been done. I feel the $902,000 is a good starting place and I say we should stay there (for the coming year) knowing what our long-term goals are.”
Council members look at several options to find the additional funds, including a 1.35-cent property tax rate, which would have raised about $230,000. The council also considered a proposal to eliminate mowing in the Ric Williamson Memorial Highway medians, saving about $37,500, though Blaisdell noted that would put the city in violation of its own ordinances. Cutting nearly $100,000 from the city library’s $1.04 million budget and designating it for streets was also considered, and about a dozen people who planning on speaking against such cuts. Director of Library Services Dale Fleeger said his funding must be kept in order to maintain accreditation.
Losing accreditation could mean the loss of grant funding. A cut of $21,000 would have allowed the library to maintain its accreditation.
Council rejected each of cost-cutting proposals, saying they could find the additional street materials through other means. An expected 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue in the coming year will go to street maintenance with monies from cutting part-time assistants in both the city manager’s office and the Weatherford Fire Department providing additional funds.
While Mayor Pro Tem Craig Swancy encouraged council to maintain the library budget as is, he did ask city officials send Parker County officials a letter requesting more funds from the county, which currently provides $46,000 of the library’s $1.04 million annual revenue. Fleeger previously estimated between 60-65 percent of library patrons come from outside the city.
Mayor Dennis Hooks said the city and county have a good working relationship and the county “will do the right thing.”
Council member Jeff Robinson suggested charging out-of-city residents a fee but was told by Fleeger an interlocal agreement between the city and county states that county residents are provided equal services.
“If we don’t, we don’t get the $46,000,” Fleeger said. “It’s probably time for the city council and commissioners to sit down and talk about that.”
The council will hold public hearings on both the proposed tax rate and the budget at its Sept. 10 meeting.
Funding for outside agencies that made requests for funding last month will be discussed during a called Tuesday work session.