August 16, 2016 Council Rundown

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All council members were present for the August 9, 2016 meeting.

Finance Director Phil Bray presented this item to the City Council. He highlighted the yield the City’s investments are bringing, saying that they are “significantly better” than they would be if the City was using one of the available Texpool options.

City Manager Jim Ryan drew the council’s attention to a chart showing where the City spends money. Public Safety makes up 44% of all expenditures. This includes services such as fire, police, the Marshal’s office, and animal control.

Moving into the budget itself, Ryan called it a “very bare bones budget.” He informed council that the budget has no raises or nothing extra built into it. He then led them to the back of their budget binder where they could look at some optional items that they may want to add into the budget. Several of these optional items were suggested by council members themselves.

The first optional item was a change to the percentages in the retirement program for City employees. Currently, the program offers a two to one match, with employees putting in 5% while the City matches it with 10%. The proposed option would move those numbers to 7% and 14%, something that was described as a tool that would help the City recruit and keep more employees. Over half of the cities in the area already operate on a 7%/14% plan.

Council member Dave Mann spoke regarding this plan, saying he would not work for a City that only had the 5%/10% retirement plan. Mann stated that he would like to see the council adopt a 7%/14% plan for the city employees. Council members Steve Ott and Paul Moore also voiced their support of this plan. This item will be added to the budget.

Ryan touched upon the impact that Splash Dayz waterpark had on the budget, saying that if you took away the waterpark costs the budget would be balanced. He stated that there will need to be investments into the waterpark moving into its second year, saying he believes there is “great light at the end of that tunnel.”

A request by the library for $7,390 to publicize and celebrate their 40th anniversary was discussed. Ott said he was against this, saying they’re part of the City and this could lead to every separate entity in the City wanting to celebrate their own individual anniversaries. Clements agreed with Ott on this issue. Mann said he was in favor of this item, saying he’d like to see the library get a boost.

A new air conditioning system for the Animal Shelter was discussed. Assistant City Manager Jeff James presented this item, saying that the recommendation by the State was that better ventilation would suffice for the building. This option was being considered not only because of its cheaper price tag but because it would work better with the electrical systems in the building. The electrical system set up has caused issues with air conditioning units, causing replacements or repairs to be done to them each year. James stated that running the proper electrical lines to the building would be very pricey.

City Manager Ryan presented the next optional budget item, telling the council that for years the City has rented a heavy duty lawnmower for use in the Parks Department. He stated that for around the same price they were spending on the rental, the City could purchase their own mower.

Next, Ryan spoke about the water meter change out program that aims to keep the water meters around the City up to date. He told the council that the City should be putting around $70,000 per year towards this program. Assistant City Manager James spoke about some recent complaints from citizens regarding higher than usual water bills and said that the City has been investigating those complaints. He stated that most concerns regarding water bills were related to increased usage and not due to anything on the City side, but said there were a few instances where equipment needed to be updated. James said this meter replacement program was a “necessity”, saying it would be better to replace meters on a regular basis instead of waiting and being reactive to future problems. Council member Clements stated this water meter replacement program would be a benefit for citizens and for the City.

As the work session began to wind down, several more issues were briefly discussed. Ryan spoke about the attempts being made by the City to treat the citizens as customers, saying the City is doing everything it can to make this community good for the customers. Clements made a request to see a breakdown of how much money each City employee makes. He also stated that he’d like to make sure the Community Chest allotment of $1500 remains in the budget. Council agreed on this item. Employee health insurance rates were also discussed during the work session. James stated they’re estimating a 14% increase in insurance costs and should have solid numbers on that soon.

Council set a work session for the following week to continue working on the budget.

Mayor White presented the next item as he voiced his desire to see some sort of a memorial or monument built in honor of recently passed White Settlement council member Mike Arnold sr. as well as the recently passed White Settlement firefighter Trevor Gage. Mayor White said he’d like to expand it to those in the past who have lost their life while they were serving the citizens of White Settlement. Several council members voiced their support of this item. City staff will begin gathering ideas for this and will bring them back to council.

The first of two required public hearings on the proposed tax rate for the coming fiscal year was held. The current tax rate is $0.7331 per $100 and the proposed rate is $0.7556. Ryan spoke about the lower average price of homes in White Settlement and the high number of seniors here who receive tax breaks. He stated that in order to keep funding all of the services the City provides, they have to use tax revenue. Ryan said he believes citizens get a good value for what they pay.

A citizen spoke, saying that taxes have steadily increased since they moved to White Settlement. They also stated that with home values on the rise and new homes being built and moved into, they questioned why the City needed to raise taxes.

Another citizen stated that with all the new homes comes new responsibilities for the City. With the need to keep up all the new streets and infrastructure, the citizen said they understood why taxes needed to be raised a little.

A third speaker pointed to the higher appraisals of properties, saying that is bringing in more revenue to the City. They questioned why there is a need for a tax increase, saying they feel the City can just be more frugal with its money.

With no one else wishing to speak, the public hearing was closed.

Human Resources Director Mark Huff presented this item to council. Huff stated this was something of a cleanup process as there are certain items that weren’t in the policy manual that needed to be added. One change Huff highlighted was a new social media policy, saying there have been some employees that didn’t behave properly on social media and did harm to the City. Asked to expand on this by Mayor White, Huff said there were instances when employees were saying negative things about the City on social media. Clements asked what the punishments are for those who break the social media policy. Huff stated that it depends on how serious the issue is and that there is a disciplinary section of the manual that would dictate punishments.

Ryan stated that there are no increased benefits to employees in the policy or any loosening of rules. He said the rules and regulations have been brought up to date and in some areas tightened up so there is a clear guide for workplace behavior.

Moore made a motion to approve the resolution to adopt the updated personnel policy manual. That motion passed unanimously.

Ryan opened discussion on this item, saying that there were certain aspects of the old Parks and Recreation Board ordinance that were no longer valid. He said that parts of the board’s structure and duties have become obsolete due to the creation of the Economic Development Corporation which has taken over many aspects of managing the parks. This includes reviewing and approving the parks budget. The parks and recreation board was referred to as an advisory board.

Mayor White referenced an older City ordinance that states that the City Manager is supposed to develop the parks budget with the parks and recreation board. He stated that if that law has become outdated, it needs to be changed. Ryan said the budget hasn’t been prepared that way since 1994 when the EDC was formed. White voiced his feeling that the EDC would be able to better promote economic development if it wasn’t responsible for parks expenditures, saying those expenses should be moved to the general fund.

Council member Ott asked if the Parks and Rec board has made a recommendation on this proposed ordinance. City Secretary Amy Arnold stated this is more a housekeeping issue than anything. Ott continued to say he feels that it needs to go before the parks and rec board first before council acts on it. Arnold told him the ordinance just removes duties from the parks board that are now obsolete and have been moved to new boards via more up to date actions. Mayor White said he feels a deeper look at the parks board and the ordinances that govern it needs to happen. Ryan told him that they’re only asking for the parks board to be changed in the areas where it conflicts with other ordinances and the City Charter.

Ott made a motion to postpone this item for a future discussion until after the parks and recreation board looks it over. That motion was tied, with Moore and Clements voting against postponing the item and Mann and Ott in favor. The tie-breaking vote then fell to Mayor White, who voted in favor of postponing this item.