City workers set for raises: 2 percent increase has preliminary OK

HARLINGEN — A proposed $41 million general fund budget would come with city employee raises.

In a special meeting last night, city commissioners approved the first reading of the proposed budget, which includes a $184,000 package to give 2 percent raises to the city’s 325 non-civil service employees.

The proposal would keep the property tax rate at 58 cents per $100 of valuation.

“This was a challenging budget, to say the least,” City Manager Dan Serna told commissioners. “I think we have a budget everyone can be proud of.”

During budget talks, commissioners made street repairs a top priority. So Serna ramped up next year’s street program to $1 million.

It was the third time Serna boosted the street repair fund since meeting with commissioners in a budget workshop last month.

At first, Serna proposed a $750,000 street repair fund.

But commissioners wanted more money earmarked for streets.

So Serna proposed boosting the fund to $830,000.

Then he wanted to pump more into the account.

Now, Serna’s proposing using interest savings from bonds sold for street projects to add $170,000 to next year’s street program.

As part of the proposed budget, Serna also proposed the purchase of two dump trucks for street projects.

To fund the purchase, officials plan to take $37,000 out of the general fund and $104,000 out of a vehicle replacement fund.

Serna said $2.3 million would remain in the account.

Still, next year’s street repair fund appears to fall short of the current program.

This year, the city funded a $1.5 million street program after taking $500,000 from cash reserves.

The proposed budget comes with a $15.1 million cash reserve fund capable of operating the city for 133 days in case of an emergency.

“That’s a fantastic fund balance,” Serna said. “That’s what helped us get the bond rating.”

In May, Fitch Ratings upgraded the city’s bond rating to AA+, from AA-.

The proposed budget comes with a project aimed at making playgrounds more accessible to special needs children.

Serna has earmarked $461,500 to help fund two all-inclusive playgrounds at Victor Park and Pendleton Park.

As part of an agreement, the Harlingen school district would provide about $400,000 to help build the playgrounds.

The proposed budget would spruce up the Harlingen Public Library, where Serna earmarked $90,000 for new furniture.

Serna also proposed two staffing changes.

At City Hall, two part-time computer specialist jobs would be combined to create a full-time position.

Meanwhile, he proposed merging two part-time human resources positions to create a full-time secretary’s job.