In his latest blog post, Mayor Friedberg discusses the City’s budget, cost cutting, and added expenses, including a resident petitioned off-cycle sidewalks charter election in May at an expense of $80,500.
The Mayor discusses the need to plan “for the future, even beyond the next fiscal year, to ensure our continued financial stability and protect our AAA bond rating.”
He states that, “our current budget, adopted last year, represented somewhat of a setback, as we held property tax revenues steady in light of Hurricane Harvey and also deferred the water and sewer rate increases that were otherwise scheduled to phase in. That was the right thing to do a year ago, but can’t be sustained indefinitely. The proposed budget is thus built around our five-year fiscal forecast, which includes alternative growth scenarios to highlight the extent of the problem.”
The Mayor points out that “the (comparatively) easy cuts have already been made. Eliminated from the proposed budget, for now the third year in a row, is any cash contribution to our pavement management program. Vehicles and equipment, the other non-recurring expense category on which we’ve cut back in recent budgets, is again funded adequately but not more. Previously planned parks improvements are further deferred.”
Some new expenses pointed out include, “some big-ticket items, among them, an anticipated 15% health insurance rate increase ($200,846), a market-driven 1.5% cost of living adjustment ($174,377), the resident petitioned off-cycle sidewalks charter election in May ($80,500), and funding for demolition of the few remaining homes left unremediated since Harvey ($32,000, which the City will ultimately be able to recoup by liens on those properties).
Mayor Friedberg says that “flood mitigation will remain our top priority in FY 2020 but the projects don’t really impact the budget because they’re already funded with unused sidewalk money and cost savings from earlier phases of the current bond program. The proposed budget does conservatively assume a bond issuance toward the end of the fiscal year, to fund the next round of local street and drainage improvements, or even cost participation in all-important regional projects should there be an opportunity.”
The Mayor strongly encourages residents to review the proposed budget, “especially the transmittal memo and extensive narrative that explains, transparently and in context, the difficult choices we’re faced with.”
To allow residents to give their input, there will be a Public Hearing on the proposed budget August 12, followed by a budget workshop that same night, and another on August 19.
See the Mayors full blog post HERE.