City council members reviewed the proposed 2019-2020 city budget Tuesday, asking questions about budgeted expenditures and requesting additional information on others.
City Manager Matt Wojnowski began his presentation on the budget by recognizing the work done by City Finance Director Gilbert Sanchez, risk management director Lorinda Castillo and budget analyst Roxy Soto.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have a budget to present to you today,” Wojnowski said.
The city manager went over the budget work sessions he has already had with the council, reminding members $3 million was trimmed from the city’s initial proposed capital improvement projects for the coming year. He also pointed out in a work session on city staffing, the council had recommended a $10 per hour minimum for city employees and a 1 percent cost of living adjustment for city employees, both of which are reflected in the budget draft presented to the council Tuesday.
The city manager said the city’s proposed revenue budget for revenues in the city’s general fund is $25,637,518, with proposed expenditures for the coming year at $26,155,225.
He said major factors affecting the general fund include a $63,833 increase in insurance premiums, the staffing cost at a $10 per hour minimum with a 1 percent cost pay increase for all others, a total of $108,694; new positions estimated to cost the city $99,977; $56,030 in vehicle replacements, $110,000 to Val Verde County to assist in the annual operation of the women’s shelter and a $517,707 transfer to the international airport for commercial air service.
He noted the city’s general fund has three major sources of revenue: the international bridge, which makes up 26 percent of general fund revenues, sales tax, which makes up 23 percent; and property tax, which makes up 22 percent.
More than 50 percent of the general fund expenditures go to public safety costs, with the police department accounting for 28 percent and the fire department accounting for 24 percent. The public works department accounts for 29 percent of the city’s proposed expenditures.
Wojnowski also went over the city’s special revenue fund, which includes proposed room tax allocations, the debt service fund and city enterprise funds.
During his discussion of proposed room tax, also called hotel occupancy tax, allocations, Councilwoman Diana Bejarano Salgado said she did not see any money set aside for possible construction of a convention center or a new civic center.
“There’s nothing in this budget for that. It is a big project that I think council and staff should discuss further before we move forward on anything like that,” Wojnowski said.
“Considering all the problems we’ve had there (at the civic center) and the loss of revenue, that’s why I’ve been bringing it up since we found out that we had all these problems, because they’re still ongoing. My understanding was that we were going to take a good, hard look at this, because if I’m not mistaken, 34 or 35 percent of the room tax can be allowed for the building of a new civic center, and that’s something I’d really like to see happen,” Salgado said.
Wojnowski said he believes the project should be further reviewed by staff and council.
Salgado asked the item be placed on a council agenda “in the very near future.”
The council members also spent some time discussing room tax allocations.
Wojnowski also covered the proposed capital improvement projects plan for the coming year.
During city council member questions about the budget, Garza asked what city utility rates, if any, would have to increase to support the coming year’s budget.
Sanchez said some rates might increase.
Councilman Alfredo “Fred” Carranza Jr. had questions about a $2 million expenditure in the budget allocated for the city taking over operation of the landfill.
“I think we had some discussions on that, but I don’t recall us actually saying that we were going to do that. That’s something we need to look at pretty hard,” Carranza said.
“I think there’s a benefit in taking over the landfill operations,” Wojnowski said, later adding he believed the city would make money in doing so.
Garza said the city would have to look closely at the increase in staff required.
The city manager said if the city decided not to take over operations, it could use the budgeted $2 million to close future landfill cells.
De Reus said he would like to see a cost/benefit analysis before making a decision on changing operations at the landfill.
Carranza said he would also like to see an additional inspector in the city code compliance department.