Mineral Wells city council

MINERAL WELLS — City council members on Tuesday approved a $37 million budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

They were unanimous also in approving the Mineral Wells tax rate at just below 69 cents per $100 property valuation.

The 68.79-cent rate approved Tuesday will bring a $687 tax bill on a $100,000 home before exemptions are claimed. The rate should draw $5.25 million from property owners.

The rate is slightly more than 2.5 percent higher than this year's tax rate and will draw $54 more from that $100,000 home.

Sales tax receipts are expected to add another $3.6 million to the general fund, while a $1.9 million transfer from the water fund will slide to the general fund in lieu of taxes, an accounting principle that treats the stand-alone water service as a taxpayer to the general fund.

Water rates are going up 7.7 percent, sewer rates by 7 percent. The hike was recommended in a 2018 Comprehensive Utility Rate Study the city performed.

This year's general fund budget is expected to have a $20.8 million balance when it closes out at month's end. The coming year's spending plan is projected to end almost $12.5 million in the black.

Total spending in the coming year is $37 million. Of that, $16 million is for daily, general fund, expenses such as city offices, police and public works. The 2021-22 general fund is balanced.

The water and sewer fund is set at $11.6 million, and airport operations are projected at $1 million. Capital projects, including a large downtown infrastructure renovation that includes streets, sidewalks and underground water and sewer lines, is expected to cost $3.1 million.

Debt payments in fiscal 2021-22 will be $443,000.

Before consideration of the budget and tax rate, City Manager Randy Criswell polled the council for input into a request going out next month for companies to bid for the city's trash collection contract.

Mineral Wells' contract with trash collector Waste Connections expires at the end of February 2022, and Criswell said he hopes to submit proposals by Nov.12 and a council decision in time to ink a contract in December to allow " …plenty of time for the transition, public education, etc."

Criswell first asked if bidders should be told they will be expected to place trash receptacles in key spots before downtown and other city-sponsored events — and to gather them up in a timely manner.

Criswell also said planners of events not produced by the city will be informed they must expect the same preparation and pickup when they arrange trash services. And he said they will be informed they must use whatever trash company the council eventually selects.

Mayor Pro Tem Doyle Light and other council members liked that idea.

"I agree," Light said. "We're encouraging more events."

After several options — while discussing options including how often bulky items will be picked up at curbside and whether brush should be bundled — the council liked a 'buffet-style' approach for bidders.

That approach asks companies to list levels of services and stick a price tag on each. That will let the council weigh what residents might want against what they will pay in monthly bills.

Councilman Brian Shoemaker likened the format to a car wash, where customers have options that go up in price the more they want done.

"I want to know what all the things are," he said. "And we can figure out, 'OK, I don't need this one.'"

Criswell also said the request for proposals will require bidding companies to include better notifications to residents when trash collection will be delayed.

"There are better ways of notifying your customer base if you're going to be late," he said. "They are going to have to figure a way to send people a text message if they are going to be three hours late. … I know the technology is out there, so we'll get that worked into the proposal."

Also Tuesday, council members pledged the city's support for a grass-roots group of volunteers planning to restore the neglected Rose Garden at Woodland Park Cemetery.

Resident Charles Garland told the council Master Gardener Juane Reed will oversee landscaping and replanting the garden, which is named in memory of fighter pilot Col. Donald Burns.

"We'll help the best we can," Light told Garland, before Criswell named Public Works Director Scott McKennon the city's liaison to the project. Criswell also said the city can legally accept donations of up to $500 for the project.

Garland said Reed has access to free roses and hopes to see them planted at no cost. He said a working water source will have to be identified.

"I've got a lot of hope," he said. "And I can see a lot happening."

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