City looks ahead to special legislative session
By LYNETTE SOWELL
At Thursday’s Copperas Cove city council workshop, the city’s budget director/deputy city manager, Ryan Haverlah, told the council that the city is bracing for the upcoming special session of the Texas legislature.
Haverlah presented each of the council members with a thumb drive which had a copy of the proposed city budget for the next fiscal year.
Projected expenditures for the city’s major operating funds total $33,661,874, which are the general fund, the water and sewer fund, the solid waste fund, and the golf course fund.
He pointed out several budget challenges in the presentation, to include Texas “legislative actions – efforts to cap revenue and expenditures,” debt service payments will peak in 2018, reducing general fund revenue by $452,000; the employee cost of living allowance of 1 percent, along with the 3rd year of market stabilization pay increases for public safety positions; the city engineer position, which was recommended by the council to be added to the city’s personnel plan instead of contracting for the work; maintaining and expanding services, which includes expanding utility customer service and collection activities; and working toward finding a solution for eliminating the deficit in the city’s golf course fund.
During the meeting which followed the workshop, the council voted via a random name draw to appoint Jim McEvers and Robert Sizemore to places 6 and 7, respectively, on the Quality of Life board, and appointed Gordon Irwin, Patricia Thomas and Craig Foster to fill three alternate positions.
The council voted to postpone action on amending the city’s fence ordinance which would have permitted residential property owners to build privacy fences to a maximum height of eight feet, with additional approval beyond the standard six feet required. This was after an executive session during which they received input from city attorney Habib Erkan Jr., at the suggestion of city manager Andrea Gardner. The council will receive input from the Planning & Zoning Commission on the proposed amendment.
The council also approved an ordinance which annexed 35.596 acres of property owned by the Copperas Cove Independent School District for the future location of the district’s Transportation Department.
It also approved a Mutual Aid Agreement with Fort Hood Fire and Emergency Services, an agreement which has been in place between the City of Copperas Cove and Fort Hood for decades, according to Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young.
Mark Farmer, the director of the city’s Economic Development Department, presented the council with the EDC’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year.
Farmer pointed out several items on the proposed budget, to include a projected total of $1.1 million in sales tax revenue for the next fiscal year, which is 3/8-cent of the city’s 1-1/2 cents sales tax revenue. He also gave credit to the city’s finance director, Velia Key, with the EDC’s interest revenue jumping from last year’s $1,800 to $14,000 for this year.
He said the EDC’s operating budget is divided into four departments, administration, business retention and expansion, business attraction, and the digital sign, for a total of $385,000. He said the EDC will hold workshops as well as public hearings for the budget.
Where business attraction is concerned, Farmer said the EDC has “beefed up” its attraction efforts, along with providing for business retention and expansion for existing businesses.
“You can’t love ‘em and leave ‘em. We need to take care of those who are here. Because if you don’t love ‘em, somebody else will,” Farmer said.
Councilman Kirby Lack questioned the digital sign expense in the budget for next year, in the amount of $240. Ryan Haverlah, the city’s budget director, said that is to fund electric cost, in the event the sign is sold and needs to be turned on.
Matt Russell commented that he’s always pushed to try to get the EDC to spend some money on the city, such as building a splash park or something to attract people to the city. He realizes that it’s something that would need to be put to the voters, and wasn’t sure if this was something the EDC could approve to be put on the ballot for the November election.
City manager Andrea Gardner said that the EDC board was waiting for Farmer to be on board and they were waiting for the board to put something in the strategic plan. Anything to be put on the ballot for the November 2017 election would have to be decided by August 24, a decision at this point that Gardner called “rushing it.”
The funding for the upcoming land exchange has been divided, with an anticipated $1 million to be spent in the next fiscal year on the land exchange, with the remainder of the land exchange funding to be rolled into the following fiscal year.
The council approved Aug. 1, 2017 as the date for the public hearing for the city’s proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The council will hold a number of workshops which are open to the public prior to the hearing, with a workshop set for today at 5 p.m. as well as Thursday at 5 p.m.