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The city of Pearsall, like most county and city governments, is in the middle of budget season. Our fiscal year begins October 1 and we need to have a balanced budget approved and in place prior to the start of the new fiscal year. Budgets are set on realistic expectations using historical expenses, traditional repairs and anticipated needs for the coming year. It’s a forecast and truthfully, our best guess on what next year’s needs are going to be. Included in most budgets are provisions for unexpected operational emergencies. It’s hard to forecast emergencies, but it’s prudent to prepare for contingencies. Revenue funds come from three primary sources, there are others, but they are minor to the three major categories: property taxes, sales taxes and utility sales income. Property taxes are generated from the city tax base, which is set by the appraisal district and changes year to year, we budget roughly $2.7 million from property taxes. Utilities are collected from water and gas, trash pickup and sewer service sales and average $5 million annually. Sales taxes are typically our largest variable. The State of Texas collects 8.25 percent in sales tax. The city get’s 2.0 percent of that back, and passes on .5 percent to Frio County; so the city collects 1.5 of the 8.25 percent. Net sales tax to us the last couple years has been in the $2 million range. This figure can change with ebbs and flows of the economy. Various other sources make up the difference.
Pearsall operates on just under $12 million annually. The city, like most municipalities, has two divisions, administration and utilities. Administration covers, streets, police, library, parks, municipal court, etc. Utilities cover water, gas, waste water, and trash pickup. Each division operates on roughly $5 million apiece. The budget balance, or $2 million, is used for debt service. The City has several bonds (loans) that have a collective balance today of $13 million, with payments totaling $2 million annually. These loans had a beginning balance of $21 million. The bulk of the loan payments or $1.3 million, is generated from property taxes, the balance is paid by revenue from the utility department.
Our budget maintains four water plants, the waste water treatment plant, water lines, gas lines and distribution systems, roads, library, municipal court, fleet of vehicles, equipment and yellow iron. Maintain right of ways, park systems, transfer station, police department, conference center, code and building permits, and animal control. Inside the city we have roughly 3,000 homes, 60 miles of roads in addition to roughly 60 miles of water and gas lines, covering approximately eight sections of land or 5,000 acres.
It’s a lot, I’m thankful for this opportunity to serve as mayor as it has really opened my eyes to how much happens within a city to make everything work. It is a dedicated work force that keeps all this going, with some of the most up-to-date equipment and technology, as well as some equipment and distribution systems that are nearing the end of their useful life. Additionally, there is a large regulator burden management has to keep up with. It can be challenging, and there are a lot of components, but it’s our budget and the ability to meet our obligations that ties this all together.
I’ve lived in the city for 23 years and have not experienced any interruption in city service. I know not everyone can say that, but the vast majority of us can count the days everything works versus days they don’t, and the city is batting close to 1,000. We can always do better and that is the objective, to provide good and dependable service today and tomorrow. Having our citizens understand the needs of this city is going to help us all achieve these objectives. This will be a series of articles on our budget, detailing where we are, where we need to go and how we propose to get there.
God Bless the City of Pearsall, the County of Frio, the State of Texas, the United States of America and You.
Ben T. Briscoe
Mayor of Pearsall