San Benito passes $14 million budget

City plans $1M street project, no new taxes

Downtown San Benito store fronts will soon get a touch up as part of the city’s beautification program

SAN BENITO — The city’s new $14 million general fund budget will come with a $1 million street project — and no tax hike.

Earlier this week, city commissioners approved the budget that is about $800,000 bigger than the current $13.2 million budget.

As part of the budget, officials plan a $1 million street overlay project.

Under his plan, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa will pull $550,000 from the city’s $4 million reserve fund to bolster the city’s annual $450,000 street repair account to fund the $1 million project.

Meanwhile, the cash reserve fund will give the city 120 days’ worth of back-up revenue to maintain operations during an emergency, he said.

It’s up to commissioners to tap the streets to be repaired, Mayor Ben Gomez said in an earlier interview.

Sales tax climbing in pandemic

The new budget, which keeps the city’s property tax rate at 72 cents per $100 valuation, is bucking a trend in consumer spending amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While many other cities are struggling with falling sales tax collections, De La Rosa is projecting $3.5 million in sales tax revenue compared with the current collection of $3.3 million.

The city’s climbing sales tax collections are following a trend set at least a year ago.

Commissioners to decide raises

The proposed budget comes with money earmarked to fund 3-percent employee pay hikes, De La Rosa said.

It’s up to commissioners to decide if employees will get raises.

“The San Benito City Commission will decide the amount of increase, if any, for employees at a future date,” De La Rosa stated.

Commissioners will also determine whether firefighters will get raises.

“The fire department firefighters are Civil Service employees and generally receive what all other non-uniform city employees receive,” De La Rosa stated.

However, the police department’s collective bargaining agreement will set officers’ pay increases.

“The police department police officers have a collective bargaining agreement and are scheduled for a 2.5-percent increase in accordance with the agreement for the upcoming fiscal year,” De La Rosa stated. “However, the City Commission may authorize and approve a 3-percent increase for these uniformed Civil Service employees, also.”

Police cars coming

Under the budget, the city is setting aside $150,000 for the purchase of five police cars while adding a police dispatcher to the payroll, earmarking $27,951 for the position, Finance Director Belen Peña said.

New employees on payroll

Under its $4.1 million water production fund, the city plans to set aside $85,696 to fund four positions, each paying annual salaries of $21,424, at the city’s newest water plant.

Now, officials are preparing to re-open the plant built about 10 years ago after a previous administration shut it down in 2014 while it filed a lawsuit charging the plant didn’t properly operate.

During this summer’s budget workshops, De La Rosa called for a $30,000 water rate study.

At the time, he discussed boosting water rates to offset a water production fund shortfall of $880,022.