It’s been a bit since I’ve written about my little city on the bay but I have been paying attention to what is going on. I wanted to let the new council settle in before I started commenting about them. They’ve been in office about three months now so I think it is time to get back to business.
The council held a budget workshop last night and it was a refreshing change from last year. New Mayor Rick Moses wasted no time in letting council know that he was not giving them a pie in the sky budget to start cutting. Rather, he told council that he tried to make the hard choices himself and now it was their job to review it and make whatever changes they deemed necessary. Even though he presented a deficit budget, it was a far cry from the last mayor’s million dollar deficit.
The big picture numbers are:
|General Fund Revenue|
|Gross Revenue *||$1,530,635.59|
|Transfer from GF Reserve||($219,685.04)|
|General Fund Expenditures|
|Utility Fund Revenue|
|Transfer from GF Reserve||($226,853.02)|
|Utility Fund Expenditures|
|Water Department Expenditures **||$548,961.30|
|* Includes $143,891.59 transfer from Water Dept|
|** Water Dept Exp includes $143,891.59 transfer to General Fund|
|Proposed Deficit Spending|
Although the proposed budget deficit of $446538.06 is far below last year’s starting point, I think there needs to be more cuts made. Whether or not council wants to cut more remains to be seen. One of the reasons that I attended the workshop was to get a feel for the body language of the members to see if any of them are interested in forcing more cuts. I didn’t get the impression that this council was prepared to do that but that’s just an impression. Perhaps as they study the proposed budget over the next week some of them will find ways to lower that deficit.
Personally, I think that the revenue estimate from property taxes is too conservative. Most of you know about the large, across the board increases by HCAD this year. The city’s revenue forecast is for an increase of 5.2%. I haven’t looked at all of the property in the city, perhaps they are correct but on my street alone the value increases are in the 10% cap range. As far as I can tell, I was the only one to protest my values, so those are going to be locked in. Add in new building and homes that have finally come back online after the hurricane and I think there is a real possibility of moving the city’s number up by $25-30k, which might not seem like much but is another 3% or so.
While the workshop was going on, Harris County Tax Assessor Collector Mike Sullivan stopped by and offered to answer any questions about the appraisal process and the certified tax roll. Now that is customer service.
The next budget workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, August 12th at 6:00 pm.