By Joe Reavis
Wylie City Council last week proposed drawing down unencumbered fund balances to cover a deficit in the 2015-’16 budget it has been working on most of the summer.
Budget expenses were discussed in a final workshop held last week as part of a regular council meeting. Also, the council gave informal approval to cutting the property tax rate by a penny.
Fund balances grew over the past year because revenues were greater than anticipated and some projects budgeted for 2014-’15 were not completed. The city works to keep a funds surplus of about 25 percent on hand in case the money is needed for emergencies and some balances have exceeded that mark.
The proposed final 2015-’16 budget is to be delivered to council members this Friday and be available for public viewing at the office of the city secretary. The council will meet Tuesday, Aug. 11, to take a first vote on the tax rate.
City Manager Mindy Manson presented figures to the council last week, itemizing changes in the general, recreation, 4-B sales tax and utility funds. Expenses for all four funds were increased to pay for several items not included in earlier budget variations.
The general fund had been budgeted with $33.4 million in revenues and $33.1 million in expenses, leaving a positive $299,450. Manson reported that income is expected to be more than the budget indicates, allowing the city to add expenses left off earlier drafts when coupled with using excess funds on hand.
Proposed is adding $1.58 million in expenses to the base budget, which includes 12 new employees, and drawing down the fund balance by $772,783 for various equipment purchases.
Unencumbered general funds are estimated at $10.39 million at the start of fiscal year 2015-’16 and $9.65 million at the end of the budget year. The ending balance would equal 28 percent of general fund expenses, within the 25 percent mark.
Other reductions in unencumbered funds are $3 million from utilities, $351,000 from 4-B sales tax and $145,000 from recreation.
Of the expenses added last week are 12 new employees. Those positions and costs are GIS analyst, $71,022; a new irrigation technician, $121,895; moving half the parks and recreation superintendent expense from the recreation fund, $68,250; stormwater technician, $105,217; fleet maintenance worker, $58,021; two police officers, $209,272; police records supervisor, $74,102; maintenance technician, $96,439; finance department buyer, $67,780; human resources compensation analyst, $74,473; fire department inspector, $156,918; and communications shift supervisor, $86,353.
Manson reported that the budget revenue estimate was based on a nine percent increase in property values in Wylie and that figures just released by Collin Central Appraisal District show an 11.2 percent increase, which equates to about $550,000 more revenue to the city.
The City Manager also reported that a one-cent cut in the property tax rate would drop revenue by about $292,000.
“I am extremely pleased we can fund some extra services and still cut our tax rate to citizens,” Mayor pro tem Keith Stephens said.
Councilman David Dahl, Place 6, cautioned that growth in the city may not continue at its current pace and that the council needs to look at cutting the property tax rate.
Earlier in the budget season, Mayor Eric Hogue suggested a penny cut in the tax rate and pointed out last week that the council has lowered the rate in 2014 and did not reach an anticipated tax of 92 cents several years ago, owing to conservative fiscal practices.
The only voice of dissent at the workshop came from Councilman William Whitney, Place 5, who suggested that the council consider a 2-cent cut in the property tax rate this year, accomplished by taking another look at expenditures.
One specific mentioned by Whitney, is adding the expense of four new officers to the police department. The councilman’s argument is that the police department has been unable to fill four vacancies, so it does not make sense to add more positions.
Hogue opposes dropping the tax rate any lower, and declared: “It makes good press to say we lowered the tax rate two cents, but it doesn’t impact homeowners that much.”
In the regular meeting preceding the budget workshop, two Wylie police officers were recognized for recent promotions and the council approved two zoning requests.
Promoted recently from sergeant to lieutenant was Tommy Walters, and from patrolman to sergeant was Joddy Warren.
First of the zoning requests was from Ryan Joyce of Skorburg Company asking that 3-car garages facing the street be allowed on a number of houses to be built on smaller lots in Braddock Place Phase IV subdivision.
The council took issue with the number of garage doors required to house three cars, how much of the front of a home would be devoted to garage doors and construction of said doors.
“If you are going to be able to afford a 3-car garage, you should be able to afford a cedar door,” Hogue commented.
On a motion by Dahl, seconded by Diane Culver, Place2, the council approved a change allowing 3-car garages that have no more than two garage doors and must be made of cedar with carriage house style hardware. Approval also stipulates a mix of designs in which accommodations for three cars be allowed at every third house.
No members of the public commented during a public hearing on the garage door zoning request.
Council members, on a motion by Todd Wintters, Place 3, seconded by Culver changed zoning of a house at 634 N. Ballard Ave. from single family to neighborhood service to allow an engineering firm to locate offices there.
Request was made by Steve Purcell, a partner in TDC II, a telecommunications engineering firm office in Plano.
“I don’t believe we will be a detriment to the neighborhood,” Purcell said, pointing out that there are some other businesses already located in close proximity to the 2-story house abutting Harvest Bend subdivision.
Three persons opposing the zoning change and three in favor of the change spoke at a public hearing conducted before a vote was taken on the ordinance.