All council members were present at the meeting.
INSURANCE TRUST AGREEMENT
Human Resources Director Mark Huff presented this item to the council. Huff explained that Cities have the opportunity to avoid being taxed by the state when it comes to insurance premiums if they set up a benefits trust. That trust has to be set up by the Council through a resolution. Mayor Ronald A. White asked how this benefits the City and its employees. Huff explained that it will save the City around $15,000. The City pays all of the employee’s insurance and subsidizes dependent coverage.
Council member Paul Moore made a motion to approve this resolution. That motion passed unanimously.
BUDGET WORK SESSION
Council began working through the budget. City Manager Jim Ryan said the major difference between this budget and last year’s is the addition of Splash Dayz water park.
Mayor White asked what a $13,000 increase in the Library budget was related to. Ryan said this change was due higher health insurance costs and the increase in retirement matching benefits that the council agreed upon in their previous work session.
Mayor White asked about a $60,000 increase in the Recreation department. Ryan said this is due to taking an employee out of the EDC budget and moving them to the Parks and Recreation budget.
Next, Mayor White questioned a $40,000 increase in the Parks maintenance area of the budget. Ryan again said this is mainly due to increased insurance and retirement matching costs.
Council member David Mann questioned the $52,000 decrease in the Volunteer Fire Department budget. Ryan said this is due to a savings the City has gained by moving dispatching services to an outside source instead of having an in-house dispatching service for the Fire Department. This freed up the department to add an extra firefighter for every shift and Ryan said this is something that was requested by Fire Chief Brian Thompson. Ryan said this is “an improvement in the service.”
Mayor White asked if there were solid figures on what it has cost to run Splash Dayz so far. He was told that those figures do exist but are still being updated as there are still costs from the water park coming in. Out of the approved $1.8 million for Splash Dayz in the current year, Deputy City Manager Jeff James said there is still $400,000 available. He said that there are new attractions planned for the upcoming year and that’s part of the reason for the Splash Dayz costs.
Mann asked about a decrease in the Animal Control budget. Ryan said this was due to moving around and changing some personnel, but went into a longer explanation regarding a restructuring of certain departments within the City. The animal control department will be moved away from Parks and Recreation and will instead be overseen by Deputy City Manager James. The reason given is that they would like all the departments that write citations, animal control, code department, and City Marshal’s office, to be together. James said this will help keep all citations written by the City uniform instead of having different departments having different ways they approach writing citations and preparing reports.
Mayor White asked if the City was planning to participate in the upcoming convention aimed at drawing businesses to the City. Ryan explained that they’d like to continue to do this and that past conventions have opened the doors for conversations and contacts with potential businesses and developers. Mayor White questioned if the benefit outweighs the cost of these conventions. There seemed to be support for still attending the Dallas convention, but not the one in Las Vegas. One new business in the City and one potential new business looking to come here were identified as leads that came from past conventions.
Mayor White questioned the lack of a fleet maintenance contract in the budget. Ryan said that the City went out for bids to local businesses and is now using local businesses for fleet maintenance. He stated that Clements Automotive is doing work on larger vehicles and Tilden’s Automotive is doing work on smaller vehicles. Ryan said this saves money and keeps spending local. This new way of doing fleet maintenance is expected to save $100,000 over the flat fee process that was in place previously. The City plans to go out for bids and quotes soon to assure they are getting the best deal possible on fleet maintenance.
Mann questioned the quality of oil that is being put in the police vehicles. Ryan assured him that the oil being used is 100% synthetic.
Mann pointed out two unfilled part-time positions at the library, saying he’d like to see them filled. Ryan said that this is a management decision and that when and if qualified people are found for those positions it will be looked at. Those positions are budgeted for the coming year. Council member Ott mentioned that this isn’t the only department in the City that has open positions.
A discussion about the amount of money that goes into the parks was held. Ryan informed the council that over the past five years around $2 million have been spent on park maintenance while park revenue has been less than $1 million. Ryan also touched upon the National Recreation and Park Association suggestion that the gold standard for parks is to have 10 acres of parkland per 1000 citizens. That means White Settlement would need around 160 acres of parkland to hit that gold standard. Currently, there are over 200 acres of park land in White Settlement, prompting Ryan to say that the City is “park poor”. Mayor White commented that those cities that can afford to hit the gold standard of park land also have much higher levels of revenue coming in than White Settlement does.
Moving on to the proposed Splash Dayz budget, Mayor White asked about the $100,000 in revenue that was being budgeted for pavilion rentals. He was informed that this covered not only pavilion rentals, but money that is made off of renting out the Splash Dayz conference center as well. Clements asked about $250,000 that is set to be spent on pools, slides, and rides. James told him this is going to improving the park and trying to find new attractions for the park. The possibility of taking down the closed down adventure park towers was also discussed. There are some people interested in buying them, but the costs to take the towers apart was said to be quite high. A maintenance worker will be kept on the payroll through the waterpark off season and will remain focused on any needed maintenance at Splash Dayz.
As the council arrived at the EDC budget, Mayor White stated that the EDC is spending money on things that the EDC board feels should be moved to the General Fund. This would free up more money to be spent on economic development. Ryan agreed, saying having more freed up money in the EDC would allow them to assist in economic development.
The City-sponsored holiday events were discussed next. Ryan told the council that currently there is no money in the budget for these events and asked council what they wanted to see done regarding these events. Council member Paul Moore brought up the Christmas parade of lights, saying he’d like to see that return. Mayor White agreed. Council agreed to put $5,000 in the budget towards this event. Other funds will also see a slight increase as they absorb costs related to staffing and putting on the parade. Council agreed not to do an Easter event or the annual Settler’s Day event.
The Chamber of Commerce was discussed. Ryan said that he’d like to see the Chamber become more self-supporting, saying that he’d like to reduce their budgeted amount from $30,000 to $20,000. The chamber is also being moved to an area in the Senior Center building, which will save the city $10,000 in rent costs they pay for the Chamber. Ryan said this is money that needs to be saved this year and that the chamber is okay with this move. Ott asked why the City of Fort Worth doesn’t help towards our chamber costs since it’s an area chamber that includes Fort Worth businesses. He was told that Fort Worth has their own chamber and wouldn’t likely help towards the WS Area Chamber of Commerce expenses. Ott suggested making sure the chamber knows they need to look towards becoming self-sufficient.
The meeting was adjourned with plans to continue the budget discussions at the next meeting.