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Last Friday, July 24, the city of Mission held their first workshop to discuss the 2020-2021 preliminary budget.
There, the mayor and council decided to hold regular workshops as more information about final property values and sales revenues comes in from the county. They met over a Zoom video conference, and held their second workshop on the budget Wednesday, July 29, 2020.
City Manager Randy Perez discussed where the city stood so far on funding allocations, and noted the financial department calculated figures based on the same tax rate as the 2019-2020 budget, $0.5212 per $100 valuation, and preliminary certified values from the county. The draft of the budget is expected to be finalized in September.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed hundreds of businesses to walk-in traffic at the end of March and most of April, Mission saw a decrease in sales tax revenue of 9.55 percent.
“As we all know during this pandemic, we have seen a substantial decrease in sales tax,” Perez said. “However, I do want to point out in the month of December, there was an adjustment from the state comptroller’s office that illustrated 32.9 percent.”
Perez said Mission showed a substantial increase in sales tax revenues since December 2019 until mid-March.
“In the month of May, when we had the reopening, we did show an increase of 6.29 percent,” Perez said. “A lot of the retails were not affected overall – we saw the increase that offset the businesses that were shut down in grocery stores and hardware stores.”
“Overall, for the year, we’re at 2.63 percent below last year,” Perez added. “However, we foresee we should be okay regarding the next couple of months, it just depends on what we do statewide and at the same time, see how the citizens react to going to different businesses in the next three months.”
Mission is expected to see an unrestricted fund balance of $3,711,415 by 2021, and estimated revenues of $38.7 million.
“There was a substantial increase of property taxes so far, and we’re looking at an increased estimate of $300 million in valuation,” Perez said, noting the figures were preliminary. “For expenditures and appropriations, this year we’re estimating $44 million, and next year we’re estimating $46.5 million.”
Perez said the city is trying to reduce the amount of transfers from the utility fund and solid waste fund, making the total available resources go from $4.8 million to $1.5 million. They hope to reduce expenditures, and this year, the unrestricted general fund balance is $3.7 million – which will be reduced to $225,129.
“Every year we have a savings of anywhere from $1 million to $2 million to $2.5 million overall in the general fund, and we’re expecting that trend to continue,” Perez said. “Again, these are all preliminary numbers.”
On Friday, as asked by Mayor Armando O’caña, Perez presented how the city would be impacted if a raise of $1 was given to all employees in the city of Mission. O’caña said his number one priority for this budget year was to give all city employees the raise, and all salaried employees would get a $2,000 raise.
With a $1 raise, it would cost Mission approximately $1.6 million from the general fund, and $2,131,541 total.
“To put things into perspective, an employee that is earning $10.50 an hour, if we do an increase of a dollar, it’s a 9.52 percent increase,” Perez said. “If you look at an employee that is making say $60,000 – for discussion purposes – you’re looking at a 3.46 percent increase. It varies based on employee. That’s what a dollar indicates.”
The lowest-paid employees, who make $10.50 per hour, would then make $11.50. City council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa asked if the raise determinations could be based on years of experience to “make it fair.”
Perez noted they could look at different options to offer more benefits for employees who have more years of experience.
This week on Wednesday, council held their second workshop on the preliminary budget. There, they discussed the potential for raises in the Mission Police Department and Fire Department.
When analyzing the salaries for police officers, staff presented comparables between other local municipalities departments such as Edinburg, Pharr, McAllen, Weslaco, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.
Mission is currently at the bottom of the list, but aims to offer a percentage raise that would bring it closer to the McAllen Police Department, which currently ranks third among the departments listed above.
The city council also contemplated a percentage raise for the fire department. For civilian full-time and part-time wage increases, staff compared Mission to other municipalities such as Edinburg, Harlingen, McAllen and Pharr. By raising the minimum wage by one dollar, Mission will be considered almost on-par with the city of McAllen, and will supersede wages offered in Edinburg, Harlingen and Pharr.
The city council intends to meet again to discuss the budget further and make more decisions before the final draft is complete and approved.