The Waxahachie City Council spent Thursday afternoon in a workshop to determine the 2012-2013 city budget.

The results are that residents can expect to see no increase in the tax rate, which is proposed to remain at $0.68 per $100 valuation.

“Much like last year at this same time, there are encouraging signs particularly when we look at the current fiscal year. Sales tax (revenue) has exceeded expectations, as have other revenue categories. We feel that we can address some pressing needs in the fiscal year 2012-2013 budget and at the same time can offer the council some very nice options for surplus fund balance,” City Manager Paul Stevens said. “Although there is reason for optimism, there is still a great deal of uncertainty with the economy. With that being said, with the new budget, we are hoping to address some capital needs and employee needs that have been neglected over the past several years, but not overextending the city in the process.”

General revenues are budgeted at $23,763,046 and they are estimated to come in at $25,043,530. That is an increase of $1,280,484. The city has also experienced 19 months of positive sales tax gains, and sales tax revenue is expected to exceed the budget amount by $1,130,000. Sales tax revenue is also estimated to increase by 5 percent in the upcoming budget, Stevens said.

Stevens said knowing that revenue projections were going to be better for the upcoming year, departments were asked to submit a base budget and a list of service enhancements. A base budget tells the city the cost each department needs to provide the same level of service they are doing now. Service enhancements include items such as equipment replacement, building improvements and new vehicles.

The base budget includes a 3 percent raise for all employees, adding six seasonal public works employees, two seasonal parks and recreation employees and one full-time parks and recreation employee. These positions were originally eliminated from the 2007-2008 fiscal year budget. Also $250,000 is budgeted for a new phone system for the city.

Some of the service enhancements in the proposed budget include library furnishings, improvements to the Chautauqua Auditorium, new lawn mowers, repairs and remodel to the parks building, replacement of a pick-up for the parks department, purchase two trucks for animal control, cage for animal control truck, warning sirens for the fire department, a police facility assessment, a water line for the new Baylor Hospital and repair to an exterior wall to College Street Pub that is owned by the city. The wall was an interior wall of a building that was torn down, which was deeded over to the city for back payment of taxes. The wall faces the bridge leading to George Brown Plaza.

This wall will be deeded over to the owner of the pub after repairs are complete.

“Also included in the fire department budget is a fire inspector. You will recall that at the time of the Magnablend fire, there was concern about the number of times fire inspections were done. This would make it so the fire department could do more frequent inspections of buildings in the city, particularly those that have hazardous chemical and have a higher risk of fire,” Stevens said. “I am (also) recommending the addition of four new police officers. Two of these officers would be used to work traffic, one would be an additional K9 officer and another would be assigned to the Ellis County Narcotics Task Force. An additional patrol car is included to accommodate the increased number of officers.”  

Stevens said the water line for the new Baylor Hospital is necessary. This line will not only serve the hospital but would complete a loop in the water system. It will also help to aid in the development of west Interstate 35, Stevens said.

Director of Finance Charles Harris reported that the city has 117 days in fund balance for the general fund, which translates to $6,394,000. He recommended that the city stay at 95 days in the general fund, which would provide a surplus of $1.5 million. Stevens said one way the funds could be spent would be to purchase land for a new police station.

Councilman Mark Singleton cited the city’s need to develop a long-term plan to consistently fund street maintenance, not just for improvement projects. Singleton also advocated establishing long-term plans for mowing and comparing the city’s cost to private contractors and having city staff research a vehicle replacement program.

The city’s budget has to be adopted by Sept. 25, which is five days prior to the start of the fiscal year, which will begin Oct. 1. The next budget meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, which is the regularly scheduled council meeting at city hall, 401 S. Rogers St. in Waxahachie.

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