City Ponders Ways to Spend $1.3 Million Budget Surplus
SAN ANGELO, TX — The City of San Angelo Council went into budget discussions for FY 2020 with more money than the previous year. According to City Finance Director Tina Dierschke, the Council has over $1.3 million this year in excess of last year’s budget to spend.
The purpose of this morning’s budget workshop was to hear pitches for major capital investments where the extra money can be spent.
The City is receiving 3.58 percent more, or $1,200,915, in property tax revenue for FY 2020 over FY 2019. This is calculated conservatively, with the expectation that 98 percent of all property taxes will be collected next fiscal year. The City operates on an Oct. 1 – Sept. 30 fiscal budget year.
Currently, City staff is looking at decreasing the budget for sales tax revenue expected in FY 2020. Mayor Brenda Gunter said last week that she anticipates a cooling of the local economy as oil field producers consolidate and the region anticipates a reduction in retail sales — and the accompanying sales tax collected — because FY 2020 is a national presidential election year.
For FY 2019, sales tax revenue is forecasted to be $19,725,424 million total and that amount is $1.3 million more than last year’s budget. For FY 2020, the City staff proposes the sales tax budget remain flat at $18,640,527.
The end result, considering an increase in property tax revenue, flat growth of sales tax revenue, and fees expected to be collected next year, is the City budgeted an extra $1,303,859 to spend on “other considerations.” What to spend that money on was the subject of this morning’s budget session.
The top priority that surfaced at this morning’s meeting was Concho River bank stabilization work downstream from the downtown area. In 2011, the banks upstream of today’s focus area were cleared and the river bottom dredged. Then rocks, slab stones, and mesh were strategically placed to slow or end riverbank erosion that usually occurs during times the Concho River is deluged with runoff from rainfall.
The 2011 project focused only on the Concho riverbank between approximately the Santa Fe Golf Course to Johnson Dam near Oakes St. The Museum area around Celebration Bridge, Neff’s Park, the Bosque and Kid’s Kingdom were major enhancements that became known as the River Walk as a result of that project.
Riverbank stabilization work downstream from the Oakes Street Bridge towards the convention center was not expected to be as comprehensive, however. Still, Assistant City Manager Rick Weise estimated the cost will run around $500 per linear foot. Weise said there were approximately 20 “hot spots” where stabilization work is needed.
“Initially, we were looking at $800,000 to fix the identified areas,” Weise told Council this morning.
As the riverbank erodes there, Weise warned that city sidewalks could fall into the Concho if left unfixed for much longer. The Council led by the mayor seemed supportive of spending money there.
“We’ve had a lot of rain and it has really impacted those hot spots,” Mayor Gunter said.
The City of San Angelo Development Corporation (COSA-DC) and the half-cent sales tax set-aside for economic development subsidized the 2011 riverbank project. For this smaller-in-scope project, Weise promised that if grant money became available, the City could use it to leverage City general revenue budgeted for the project.
Other big ticket items Council considered this morning included spending $97,508 and then approximately $70,000 per year for four more years on a software suite for the planning department. The software will help the department better serve building contractors and developers who would be able to submit their plans online, explained City Planning Director Jon James.
The San Angelo Fire Department requested $263,900 for ambulance EMT manpower for peak hours. Fire Chief Brian Dunn explained that new State regulations on ambulance services in recent years have effectively doubled the cost of operations for the City’s ambulance fleet.
Chief Frank Carter said the police department needs to replace Tasers, in-car video cameras, and deploy body cameras for patrol officers. He was asking for $1.7 million total. The San Angelo police in-car video system was initially deployed in 2003 and uses technology of that time. “You can barely make out a person 10 feet away,” he said. He added that to maintain the old in-car video system, his officers are shopping for spare parts on eBay.
Not all of Chief Carter’s wish list would be financed by the $1.3 million FY 2020 budget surplus. Dierschke detailed numerous accounts in the City’s chart of accounts where money was stashed to pay for a majority of Carter’s request.
Not mentioned in today’s meeting were any proposals to lower taxes. Gunter said last week that she was hoping to discuss a property tax rate cut for FY 2021, however.
No action was taken on giving the green light to any of the projects proposed this morning. That will come later when the Council approves the FY 2020 budget.
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