City council discusses city and EDC budgets

Cove Leader-Press
Two different budgets were up for discussion by the city council at Tuesday night’s meeting, with city manager Andrea Gardner presenting the fiscal year 2015-2016 proposed budget, this time with several budget changes, among which include public safety market adjustments for paying police and fire personnel, along with a rate stability increase, at a total cost of $285,000.
During the first part of the evening, a large contingent of the city’s fire and public safety personnel were on hand to listen to the council’s discussions about the market adjustments. Ryan Haverlah, the city’s budget director, also presented the recommended fee schedule changes for next  year, to include reductions of entrance fees for the city’s pools, along with seasonal pass fees, and adding a punch card for water aerobics instead of charging monthly.
Also relating to the budget discussion and the hotel occupancy tax fund, Gardner presented a letter from the Copperas Cove Leader-Press regarding its prior request for $15,000 of Hotel Occupancy Tax funding. Councilman Mark Peterson along with councilwoman Marty Smith did not want to revisit that issue and wanted to move on, but councilman George Duncan wanted to discuss the letter and information.
Much discussion then ensued, with publisher David Morris trying to make the case for receiving the money toward the printing and distribution funds for the semiannual magazine, The Hills, which is now located in TxDOT welcome centers statewide. Morris cited that the chamber’s directory is currently outdated, is an exclusive magazine for members only, that the money paid for advertising by members goes outside the city, whereas advertising for The Hills stays within the city.
Councilman Mark Peterson countered that the chamber directory is the same type of product and goes just as far as The Hills, that the city  already gives money to the chamber to promote tourism and hotels. “I’m not saying your product is not a good product. I’m saying we shouldn’t invest  $15 000 in it. We already invest in the tourism and visitors center,” Peterson said. “I would rather see the chamber and the Leader-Press get together and do a joint magazine instead of investing $15,000 for The Hills, and I don’t know how much for the chamber on the visitor, tourism side. To me, we’re duplicating our efforts.”  
Smith agreed, saying she didn’t see the need to duplicate  what the chamber is doing.
Gardner reminded the council that in July, they approved a new HOT funds policy, which requires every group requesting HOT funds to sign a marketing agreement with the city. With the council giving her authority, Gardner will be the one to negotiate those agreements and work with the agencies interested in obtaining funds,to determine whether or not they can meet the requirements of the agreement.
“If they do, then we can bring it forward and you can amend the budget,” Gardner said. “It’s a simple, two-step process.” This was something they all agreed on.
Gardner then addressed the Copperas Cove Economic  Development Corporation’s proposed pay increases for its employees in its 2015-2016 proposed budget. She noted that for seven of the last nine years, EDC employees received a higher pay increase than city employees did, with the percentage varying year to year. She recommended for the 2015-2016 budget, those increases be limited to  that of which city employees get.
“I ask if we’re going to treat employees between the two corporations fairly, thenwe need to do it fairly,” Gardner told the council. “I’m not trying to be political, but economic development employees get to enjoy being on our health insurance plan and our retirement plan. If they want to get those benefits, then I think it should be fair when it comes to pay increases.”  
Councilman Mark Peterson requested the council be given a copy of the EDC’s bylaws as soon as possible, to make that adjustment.
Councilman Matthew Russell then presented a list  of five points and recommended the EDC chairman, Dan Yancey, take the following actions prior to the September 1 approval of budget. Russell asked that the EDC remove cost of living adjustment raises from the budget next year, establish pay ranges, and provide the city manager with organizational and personnel manuals.
Next, he asked that the EDC remove the $50,000 in funding to the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance from the EDC budget. Also, the digital sign needs to be reevaluated and consider the option of  elling the sign. Continuing  to fund the sign was something Russell called “throwing good money at bad.”
Russell also wanted more detailed information on  the business attraction budget items, to include $20,000 in the business attraction travel fund, the $100,000 incentive fund and the $20,000 prospect generation service fund. He also asked the EDC reduce the financial services from $75,000 down to the amount it cost for Incode services.
“We can revisit these items for possible approval of a budget amendment for all or partial items,” Russell added. Smith agreed with everything except dropping the HOTDA funding from the budget, and said that the HOTDA is coming to brief  the EDC on August 27, so the council should be there to listen.
Also on Tuesday night, the council approved rezoning 307.8 acres west of F.M. 116 and north of Lutheran Church Road, from R-1 residential to a planned development district. On the west end of the city, was rezoned 2045 F.M. 2657, approximately 1.91 acres, from AG-1 Agricultural to B-4 Business. The council also rezoned 2053 F.M. 2657, 1.414 acres near the corner of the Highway 190 bypass and the intersection of F.M. 2657. This property was changed from AG-1 Agricultural to B-2 Retail. Plans are to construct a batting cage facility with an adjoining parking lot on the property.
During the hearings, Jimmy Clark and Nancy Carothers spoke in favor of the zoning changes, with Wayne Stepniewksi, a resident the next street over, voicing his objections to the rezoning, primarily the noise that the business would bring to their neighborhood.  
The council also called for a special election to fill city council place 3, with applications for the ballot accepted now through 5 p.m. on Sept.2. 

Copperas Cove Leader Press

2210 U.S. 190
Copperas Cove, TX 76522
Phone:(254) 547-4207