Officials propose $47.1 million budget

HARLINGEN — Officials are revising a proposed $47.1 million general fund budget to offset an $8,971 shortfall.

During a workshop Thursday, City Manager Dan Serna proposed $47.15 million in revenues along with $47.16 million in expenditures for the upcoming 2020-2021 fiscal year.

“We are not balanced,” he told city commissioners. “We still have work to do and we need some direction from the city council.”

The proposed budget comes with a $17.59 million cash reserve fund capable of operating the city for 136 days in case of an emergency, Finance Director Robert Rodriguez said.

“A big option will be utilizing our fund balance,” Serna said, referring to offsetting the shortfall.

As a result of the business shutdown stemming from government orders aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, Serna is projecting no increases in the city’s $19.36 million sales tax collection.

“The loss of sales tax revenue is obviously having an impact,” Serna said after the workshop.

Proposed major expenditures

As part of the proposed public safety budget, Serna is planning expenditures to include $306,000 for six Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs, a $37,000 back-up server and $77,515 in 911 recording equipment upgrade for the police department and $96,000 for 12 air packs, a $45,000 extractor, $10,000 for 10 self-contained breathing apparatus air cylinders, $12,000 for six automated external defibrillators and $29,000 for a Ford Explorer for the fire department.

The proposed budget also includes $52,000 for an Arroyo Hike and Bike Trail parking lot and a $30,000 Ford F-150 pickup truck for the parks department; a $30,000 Ford F-150 pickup truck for the code compliance department and a $25,000 Ford F-150 pickup truck for the health department; a $117,000 roof repair for the library; $17,700 for an animal shelter parking lot; $23,000 for two traffic signal cabinets; $25,000 for a Ford F-150 pickup truck for the animal control department; and $29,000 for a redesigned city website.

Proposed added expenses

Serna said he cut his department heads’ $8 million wish list to come up with the proposed budget.

“There were major items that were not funded,” Serna told commissioners.

Now, commissioners are considering funding $210,000 for police body cameras, $738,000 for police radios; a $270,000 street sweeper; and $500,000 for a sidewalk on Palm Boulevard in front of Vela Middle School.

Meanwhile, Serna’s proposed budget points to deficits at Tony Butler Golf Course, projected to run a $266,386 shortfall while carrying a $1.46 million deficit fund balance.

Recycling center

From the podium, resident Christy Tovar called for continued funding of the city’s recycling center while questioning revenue transfers from the sanitation department to the general fund.

Four other residents presented written comments requesting the city continue to fund the center.

After the workshop, Serna said the city is transferring about $481,000 along with a $519,000 franchise fee into the general fund.

Residents believe the city could use some of that money to reopen the recycling center.

In March, the city temporarily closed the Harlingen Recycling Center amid concerns employees could be exposed to materials contaminated with the coronavirus.

In the past few years, the recycling center’s annual operational costs have climbed from about $323,000 to $430,000 while revenue derived from the sale of recycled products has plunged from about $111,000 to $25,000, city officials have said.