A number of new initiatives for the city of Waxahachie are included in the proposed budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

The City Council will discuss the proposed budget during a special meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in the council chambers at City Hall, 401 S. Rogers St.

The first of two public hearings for the proposed tax rate will also take place during the meeting. The second public hearing on the tax rate has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4.

During the Aug. 20 council meeting, the city proposed a tax rate of .615 cents per $100 xassessed value — the same tax rate that has been in place since the 2005-2006 fiscal year.

During Monday’s meeting, the council will have an opportunity to review the city’s proposed spending plan, ask questions and recommend changes before approving the final budget during the Sept. 17 council meeting.

Proactive planning

“One of long-term goals is to get to the point where we can think, plan and act proactively instead of being completely reactive,” noted City Manager Paul Stevens in his overview of the budget, which was made available to the council Friday. “With this goal in mind, last year our major focus was the addition of critically needed personnel. This year our major focus is retention of critically needed personnel.”

In his outline of initiatives, Stevens noted the personnel market survey completed this year by the city to help identify compensation levels with the main goal of improving recruitment and retention of key personnel.

“The survey showed our total payroll is $1.3 million under the average of our competition,” Stevens noted. “Funding for just over half of the salary deficit is included in the proposed budget. … Our implementation strategy allocates a portion of the increase to the most disproportionately paid staff positions and brings their pay to a competitive market level. Many of these positions, such as building inspectors and dispatchers, are the positions in which we have had difficulty recruiting and/or retaining.”

Of note, Stevens stated the proposed budget calls for police officers and firefighters to receive increases to better match the market and keep them in an equitable step progression.

“Other personnel that need salary adjustments will see a 4 percent increase in salary. It is hoped that the remaining adjustments to these salaries could be made in fiscal year 2008-2009,” he stated.

New city initiatives

A number of new initiatives are being proposed in the budget, including a Code Red Notification System for the fire department.

The system will allow the city to contact residents during emergency situations by phone during a catastrophic event or within a smaller defined area for situations such a disruption in water service.

The 106-page budget and body of works lists projects completed during the current budget period, which include:

Laptops and software for code enforcement officers to improve tracking and enforcement. Radio system replacement Library brick pavers High School Drive extension Finance department software replacement Elevated water tower construction on Farm-to-Market 664 High-pressure water pumps Expansion of water treatment plant capacity from 15 million gallons per day to 18 million gallons per day Comprehensive plan Parks and recreation master plan.

Current, scheduled projects

Major municipal projects under way or scheduled to begin during this budget cycle include:

Airport runway expansion New water treatment plant Elevated water tank on Farm-to-Market 664 Street rehab projects Various road improvements Broadhead Road improvements Parks School House Road improvements New Waxahachie Senior Citizens Center Railroad Quiet Zone engineering Design and construction of Fire Station No. 2 Water and wastewater line extensions to the “far east” portion of the city and to the planned senior living center to the south. Water system master plan update Wastewater system master plan update Impact fee plan update including the addition of roadway impact fees.

Capital projects

Capital expenditures proposed in the budget include the purchase of seven vehicles for the police department, a replacement vehicle for the fire department, a replacement vehicle for the health department, a replacement vehicle for the building inspection department, replacement of a forklift for the city’s garage, replacement of various playground apparatuses for the parks department and replacement of two vehicles for the streets department for a total of $439,450.

New city positions

proposed

New personnel proposed in the budget include:

Hiring of three additional firefighters to complete the staffing need for the new engine going into service this fall. Hiring of four additional police officers and one dispatcher. One police officer is proposed to be assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. The other officers will be added to the force, enabling the Street Crimes Unit to become fully staffed. The additional dispatcher will provide for three dispatchers on duty while one can be assigned specifically for Fire/EMS calls during a large fire event. Adding one full-time member to the civic center staff to work as an event setup crew member. Adding one additional worker to the sports complex staff. Adding an additional cashier to the billing department. Adding a surveyor to the utility administration department. Adding an additional clerk to the water department. Adding an additional worker for the wastewater collection department. The addition of a community relations manager for the administration’s department. This person will be responsible for getting information to the public on city initiatives such as code enforcement efforts and water conservation as well as crafting responses to the media during crisis situations.

Budget expenditures

The proposed budget calls for $46,791,611 in expenditures, an increase of 11.6 percent or $4,865,003 over the current budget. Expenditures are broken down by general fund, water fund, wastewater fund, refuse service fund, hotel tax, Waxahachie Community Development Corporation (4B sales tax), debt service fund and water district.

Expenditures in each of those segments include:

General Fund — $22,780,490, 11.9 percent increase Water Fund — $7,150,103, 14.9 percent increase Wastewater Fund — $5,291,300, 4.9 percent increase Refuse Service Fund — $952,648, 6.4 percent decrease Hotel Tax — $320,000, 6.7 percent increase Waxahachie Community Development Corporation (4B) — $3,317,005, 4.1 percent increase Debt Service Fund — $5,959,828, 24.7 percent increase Water District — $1,020,237, .5 percent increase.

Budget funding

To fund the budget, the city has four primary sources of revenue — property tax, sales tax, service and user fees (fees charged for services such as water/sewer, waste collection, et cetera) and fines.

In holding the tax rate steady (property taxes), the city’s tax levy is proposed to generate just more than $11 million, about $600,000 more than the current fiscal year levy.

With additional retail growth, the city is also budgeting an increase in funds from sales tax receipts. In the proposed budget, sales tax is expected to generate $7.9 million, an increase of $600,000 over the current year.

The majority of budget funding is generated by user and service fees.

The increase in the levy is due to new development and increased valuation during the past year in which $85.5 million in new residential, commercial and industrial construction was added to the tax base.

The city’s tax base is at $1.795 billion.

During the past year, new home construction continued to rise at a rate of nearly one new home being added to the city each day.

The average assessed value of residential property has also risen during the past year — primarily as a result of the value of new homes being constructed — by nearly $5,000. The average assessed value of homes in Waxahachie is at $121,609, up from $116,034 in the previous year.

The budget also noted that health insurance for city employees will not increase in the proposed budget. The total costs of health insurance for municipal employees is $1.2 million.

E-mail Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com