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PEARSALL’S BUDGET MAY INCLUDE NEW JOBS, EQUIPMENT, FACILITY UPGRADES
Pearsall City Manager Fred Reyes presented councilors with a preliminary budget last week that highlights employee pay raises, a broad range of infrastructure improvements and several new jobs.
The budget, however, includes a $660,000 deficit.
Reyes’ proposal includes $300,000 for street improvements, eight new positions, pay increases for 60 staff, new equipment and funding for a summer recreation program.
“I would like to sit down with each of you individually and as a whole to go over the pay increases,” the city manager said during the Thursday, July 6, meeting. “There is no more ACE program.”
Pearsall ISD was previously awarded grant funding for the ACE program that provided summer youth activities, replacing a city-sponsored recreation program. That program ended this summer.
Reyes said the city is looking to budget $45,000 for the summer program.
Eight new positions include four police officers, two parks personnel, one custodian and a warehouse assistant. Of the 60 personnel slated to receive a raise, police and public works employees account for a substantial amount, according to Reyes. The city manager is proposing the purchase of four police cruisers, equipment for the parks and public works departments that includes a utility vehicle, a dump truck, a tack kettle, a sewer jetter, a dump trailer, a roller and a gas leak detector.
On the revenue side, Reyes has included an anticipated sales tax increase; monies from the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with South Texas Electrical Cooperative;
and utility fee increases.
In 2020, councilors unanimously approved an ordinance to increase utility rates over five years.
Reyes noted that improvements to two of the city’s four water plants were not completed.
“This year we were supposed to do, and I am still determined to do, the Cherry and Colorado plants,” the city manager said. “That should complete our improvements for ground and elevated tanks.”
Reyes said after the improvements were completed, the company, Maguire Iron, would service the wells on a year-to-year basis for routine maintenance. The city is currently on year three of the 10-year, $2 million contract.
“ARP [American Rescue Plan] paid for a good portion of that contract,” the city manager said. “There is six hundred thousand left in that fund. I would like to use a portion of that to pay for water rehabilitation of tanks.”
The city manager highlighted an increase in property taxes, proposed LED lighting for street lights, a design for a new water well, employee one-time incentives and the $75,000 contribution for emergency medical services was not included in the preliminary budget.
According to Reyes, the $2,000 one-time incentive for city staff was omitted due to proposed employee raises.
“Our focus in the next few months is to balance our budget,” the city manager said. “James [Hernandez, finance director] is going to show you how much out of balance the budget is. I think from a revenue perspective we are doing better, we need to consider, for the future, that the ARP money helped us out but that money is running out.
“In a nutshell, there will need to be cuts, we are short six hundred and sixty thousand dollars,” Reyes said. “James and I will be working on the adjustments and cuts.”
“We will balance the budget,” Mayor Ben Briscoe said. “We are going to provide what we need but be as conservative as possible.”
The city currently operates on a $12 million budget and has a $2 million debt service.
“We will have a sizable increase with utility rate increases,” the mayor said.
The mayor said the installation of water and sewer infrastructure along IH-35 for the recent annexation of property was pertinent and needed to be considered by councilors.
“We are hoping to get some grant monies with a debt forgiveness,” Briscoe said. “If it doesn’t happen, we still have to do it. It is not an ‘if’ thing; it is something we have to do.”
Reyes is asking for suggestions from councilors regarding the upcoming budget be made by the July 31 meeting.