The Houston City Council is expected to approve a 2020 budget as early as Monday that reflects capital expenditures paid by a new one-cent sales tax, including a new municipal swimming pool.
In his budget message, City Administrator Scott Avery said in addition to several projects planned in the coming year, the city also will work to assess the current condition of its utility system.
“The 2020 fiscal year promises to be a challenge, as we embark on a journey of developing new infrastructure for our residents and visitors to enjoy as well as get a complete accounting of the conditions of our current infrastructure, especially sewer, water and electric,” Avery writes. At the top of the list is assessing a major amount of water that infiltrates sewer lines and makes its way to a city treatment plant. The city also will begin installation of a new automated reading system of electric meters, which also allows for remote disconnections.
Leading the list of capital expenditures is construction of a new municipal swimming pool at West Side Pool. The new sales tax will be used to pay for it, along with a $250,000 grant received from Missouri State Parks. To jumpstart the project, the city will dip into its reserve to pay for it and then repay itself with the future sales tax revenue.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BUDGET:
•As in past years, sales taxes provide the lion’s share of revenue for the city’s general fund. All together, about $1.89 million is expected. Property taxes will bring in only $79,000.
•Three new employees would be added next year: Two assigned to the city’s parks and park grounds department in lieu of hiring several part-time workers. One part-time slot will be retained. Additionally, a maintenance and inventory control worker will be hired. That slot will take care of routine repairs across the city’s infrastructure and begin work on an inventory reporting system; none currently exists.
•About $354,000 is budgeted for parks department until the new sales tax that began collections in October. Of that, half is earmarked to pay back city coffers for the cost of new swimming pool and the remaining going to upgrade sports equipment, park bathrooms, picnic tables and pavilions.
A basketball court at Emmett Kelly Park will see improvements.
•The new city sales tax also will aid the police department. Some of the money will be spent on two new police vehicles (A sedan and SUV), five body cameras (six of the current seven can’t be serviced), new portable radios, new computers for police cars and upgrades to uniforms. Other expenditures include $7,000 for two car cameras to begin rollout within the department.
•The sales tax also assists the fire department. Of the $230,100 expected, about $45,700 will pay the city back for previous expenditures. Another $30,000 will be used to buy vehicle extrication equipment for the first time, $10,000 for vehicle rescue air bags and almost $24,000 for new fire hose and breathing airpacks. About $23,000 is earmarked to pay back the city for a fire truck purchase and another $22,500 that represented extra costs spent in 2019.
•The city will transfer from its reserves about $1.7 million and $635,000 in grant monies to perform several capital improvements: That includes $1.2 million to pay for a new swimming pool and another $350,000 for a new pool house. The remainder includes $80,000 for city hall improvements, $234,875 for flood damage repairs at Emmett Kelly Park, $114,590 for repairs to flood damage at the wastewater treatment plan, $259,589 in sidewalk improvements, including a stretch behind Houston Elementary School, and $22,000 to repair drainage issues associated with new airport hangars.
•Sales of electricity are expected to total about $3.7 million. Spending in the department totals about $3.6 million. Water and sewer revenue will bring in a projected $1.15 million. Total expenditures are estimated to be about $1 million.
•If all goes as planned, the city’s workforce will include 35 employees. The breakdown includes administration (11), public grounds (6), water/sewer (5), electric (5) and police (8). Avery said he’s done a comprehensive review of other town’s pay scales. The council — in addition to a cost of living raise — settled on a wage formula that hit the 85 percentile for pay. Communities of similar size to Houston were surveyed.