$48.6M general fund budget proposed

Rising property values help fund $2.4 million in purchases

HARLINGEN — A windfall in newly appraised property values helped City Manager Dan Serna balance a proposed $48.6 million general fund budget.

During a workshop Thursday, Serna proposed the budget that comes with a hefty $17.6 million cash reserve fund — enough to operate the city for 132 days in case of an emergency.

“I think this is a good, solid budget,” Mayor Chris Boswell said at the end of Serna’s 30-minute presentation.

But the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on consumer spending muddled budget projections.

Nearly every year, officials propose as much as 5-percent increases in sales tax revenue — which makes up 40 percent of the general fund budget.

But this year, Serna didn’t propose an increase in the city’s current $19.3 million in sales tax collection.

“We’re following zero tax growth,” Serna told commissioners. “It’s hard to use this year’s numbers (to calculate projections) because we’re dealing with COVID.”

The proposed general fund budget comes with about $1.3 million generated through last year’s controversial four-cent property tax rate increase.

Now, newly appraised property values estimated at $3.6 billion, a total which compares with the current $3.4 billion, are expected to generate about $981,000 in additional property tax revenue.

The new appraised property values will boost the city’s overall property tax revenue from the current $18.2 million to $19.1 million, Finance Director Robert Rodriguez said after the workshop.

To boost the proposed budget, Serna transferred $551,894 from the Free Trade Bridge at Los Indios fund and $481,000 from the sanitation fund, Rodriguez said.

‘One-time expenditures’

This year, the proposed budget comes with $2.49 million in one-time expenditures.

“I think we’ve captured everything the city council had commented on,” Serna told commissioners weeks after they proposed additional purchases.

Commissioner Richard Uribe credited Serna for drafting the proposed budget without dipping into the cash reserve.

“I think it’s a really good thing we’re not touching fund balance and we’re able to purchase the stuff we’re purchasing,” Uribe said.

However, the proposed budget doesn’t include $4.1 million worth of department heads’ “major budget requests,” according to Serna’s PowerPoint presentation.

“To end up where we ended up I think is the best-case scenario for us,” Serna told commissioners.

Proposed expenditures

As part of the proposed police public safety budget, Serna is planning expenditures to include $210,000 for body cameras, $510,000 for 10 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs, a $37,000 back-up server and $77,515 in 911 recording equipment upgrade for the police department.

For the fire department, the proposed budget includes $96,000 for 12 air packs, a $45,000 extractor, $10,000 for 10 self-contained breathing apparatus air cylinders and $12,000 for six automated external defibrillators.

The proposed budget also includes $52,000 for an Arroyo Hike and Bike Trail parking lot and a $25,000 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.

Other proposed expenditures include a $117,000 roof repair for the library; $17,700 for an animal shelter parking lot overlay; $60,804 for in-house custodial services; $23,000 for two traffic signal cabinets; $25,000 for a Ford F-150 pickup truck for the animal control department; and $15,000 for meetings management software.

The proposed budget also includes $300,000 for a pedestrian bridge and sidewalk along Palm Boulevard, a $269,000 street sweeper and $738,000 for 315 mobile and portable radios.

Meanwhile, Serna’s proposed budget points to deficits at the Tony Butler Golf Course, projected to run a $209,351 shortfall while carrying a $1.46 million deficit fund balance.