In a series of budget workshops the Mission City Council has mapped out plans for the upcoming fiscal year. Plans include expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, taking a more aggressive approach to maintenance of city parks, and a six percent across-the-board pay raise for most city employees.
After presenting the 2016-17 proposed budget to the Mission City Council Monday evening, City Manager Martin Garza Jr. and Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas discussed the highlights of the city budget in an interview with the Progress Times Tuesday morning.
Mayor Salinas explained the city does not plan to lower the tax rate again this year, but instead, needs to add more personnel to the Parks Department and give the city employees raises, which they have not received in three years — and keep a safe fund balance at the same time.
The city manager said the city plans to increase the sewer plant capacity from 9 MGD (million gallons daily) to 13.5 MGD. The city is budgeting $19.6 million for the project with funding from a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).
Bids on the project were received in June and the contract was awarded this month to RP Constructors, of New Braunfels, with a bid of $14,842,000. Currently the contracts are with the contractor for execution; then they will be reviewed by TWDB for approval. Notice to proceed with work is expected to be issued in late August or September. The project is expected to take one year and eight months.
The city is also planning an EDAP sewer project to provide sewer service and connections to residents between 4 1/2 Mile and 7 Mile Road, from La Homa Road to Bentsen Palm Road. The scope of the project also includes two subdivisions at the southwest corner of 4 Mile Line and Los Ebanos.
The project will service approximately 900 connections, providing sewer service to homes presently on septic tanks.
The council plans to give 400 city civilian employees (excluding police and fire) a six percent pay increase across the board, Salinas said. “We had already (given) the Police Department a total of 10 percent over a span of three years.” They received four percent two years ago, another three percent one year ago and another three percent this fiscal year. The Fire Department also received raises, but the remaining employees have not received a pay increase in three years. The raises will cost the city $997,000.
Parks Department New Employees
The city will be hiring six additional employees for the Parks Department in 2016-17 to form a new team to provide intensive parks maintenance. This is being done to address increasing complaints and growing needs to better maintain the city’s parks facilities.
“The six new employees cost the city about $155,000,” Garza explained. “And we added an extra $436,000 into the budget for improvements to continue maintaining our parks,” totaling nearly $600,000, said Garza. “What the mayor and council are doing this year, they are giving the money back to the taxpayers, but in the form of improving those parks, because $600,000 to the City of Mission is almost two pennies in taxes.”
The city just completed a 10-year Master Parks Plan. “That will assist us in gaining points for grants that we’re going to be going out for,” he added. “We’re applying for a grant in October to extend the existing (Hike & Bike) trail we have in South Mission. It’s going to be extended into the Bentsen Palm area.”
“We already have the land from the developer if the grant goes through.”
The top four Parks Department priorities identified in a survey of the community are: 1) better park maintenance, 2) more trails, 3) better lighting and 4) a tennis courts complex.
“Based on that survey, the direction of the mayor and council has been to look at a tennis center for the city of Mission,” said Garza. The city has prepared a conceptual for a proposed tennis complex at Birdwell Park with 16 courts.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) will prepare the design and cost estimate for the city at no charge.
“That’s a lot of savings,” Garza said, “because they know how much lighting; they know how to set up the tennis courts. They bring in a lot of knowledge when it comes to tournament play.”
New SW Lift Station
In the Southwest Mission area, the city is building a new lift station that will serve 1,088 acres. The lift station, to be constructed at Schuerbach and South 1 Mile Road, will also service a proposed police/fire substation in that area. Developer Mike Rhodes is donating three acres to the city for the substation, said Garza. The bid for almost $1 million was awarded to Morwil LLC earlier this month for construction of the lift station.
Three Additional Cops
The new budget will allow the Mission PD to hire three additional police officers.
“We filled all the positions that were open, then the mayor and council approved an additional three officers to the force,” Garza said, bringing the total number of officers to 149.
Proposed Tax Rate Vote
The city council will hold a record vote on Aug. 8 on the proposed tax rate for next year. While the current tax rate is $0.4988 per $100 valuation, the city manager said he will propose the council to adopt the “effective tax rate” which the county has calculated to be $0.4962 per $100, a decrease of $0.0026.
If the council decides to adopt the effective tax rate or less, there will be one budget hearing required, to be held Aug. 22. If they adopt a tax rate higher than the effective tax rate, two public hearings will be required.