Copperas Cove city council adopts lower tax rate, 45.08 million city budget, approves utility rate changes
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove City Council held a public hearing to amend the current city budget and approved the FY 2020 budget, the proposed tax rate for FY 2020, and the city’s Personnel, Capital Outlay and Capital Improvement plans during their regular meeting held Tuesday evening.
The public hearing was held to amend the FY 2019 budget due a revenue and expenditure increase of $8,321,901 for projects authorized under the issuance of the 2019 Certificates of Obligation on July 16, 2019. No one spoke during the public hearing and council members unanimously approved the connected ordinance approving the amendment.
The original proposed budget for FY 2020 was for $44.66 million. The amended budget is for $45.08 million, with the increase coming partially from a increase in revenue and expenditures in the Water and Sewer Fund, namely the increased water and sewer rates.
According to the ordinance approving and adopting the budget, the FY 2020 adopted budget will raise more revenue form property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $274,289, a 2.61 percent increase. The property tax revenue to be raised from the new property added to the tax roll this year is $240,964.
City council unanimously approved the proposed tax rate of $0.7865 per $100 valuation, which is lower than last year’s rate of $0.7979. Of the $0.7865, $0.4861 will go towards the General Fund, generating $6.68 million, and $0.3003 will go towards the Interest and Sinking (Debt Service) Fund, generating $4.12 million.
The City Council also approved the proposed budget of $3.41 million for the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation.
The council approve to approve the city’s Personnel Improvement Plan, Capital Outlay Plan and Capital Improvement Plan as well as the new city fee schedule. Changes to the fee schedule include the deletion of the disposal of farm animals standard fee of $25 for Animal Control, due to the fee not being utilized.
For Parks and Recreation, the changes include the removal of the four-hour rental and each additional hour fee option for Ogletree Pavilion, and make it an all-day rental similar to the Civic Center rental. The fee will change from $300 to $200. Fester’s House will become an all-day rental, deleting the five hour and each additional hour option and increasing the fee from $90 to $100. The all-day rental option was removed for the South Park Walking Trail and the minimum option was changed from two-hours to four-hours, with the fee remaining the same. The Inflatable Jump Castle Party fee was deleted due to not being utilized.
Utility rate increases, decrease
Under Utilities, the Water and Sewer base rate increased from $12.00 to $14.00 as discussed during the August 13, 2019 City Council workshop. The volumetric Sewer rate was decreased from $6.00 to $5.75, also as discussed.
For Solid Waste, the Solid Waste residential base rate increased from $18.00 to $19.00 as discussed during August 13, 2019 City Council workshop, while the Sanitary Landfill Fee increased by $5.00 per ton as discussed during the June 18, 2019 City Council workshop. Other changes include changing the truck tire rim diameter from greater than or equal to 17.5" to between 18"-24.5" rim diameter- the fee remains the same at $7.00- and adding a $20.00 disposal fee for Truck Tires, greater than 24.5 " rim diameter (to include agriculture tires).
The city council appointed Sarah Kindler to the Planning and Zoning and Commission to fill the vacant Position 3 after Ron Nelson stepped down and added Jerry Cantrell and Charlotte Brown to the Board of Adjustments to fill vacancies left for Position 1 and Position 5 after those terms expire on October 17, 2019.
City manager addresses FATHOM call fees – FATHOM rep to visit Sept. 17
City Manager Ryan Haverlah spoke about utility billing services, the Recycling Intergovernmental Service Agreement and the City’s community events during his City Manager Report.
On September 17, Fathom Representative Brad Dryer will present the city council with his Quarterly Update Report, Haverlah said. Haverlah also addressed the previously mentioned excess call volume fee. During the citizen’s forum, George McMaster spoke briefly about Fathom and the excess call volume fee and called it a fine, which Haverlah later clarified in the meeting that it was not a fine, but a contractual fee.
“Since the city has gone live with Fathom in April 2017, we have exceeded the 10 percent contractual limit on call volume each month,” Haverlah said. “Since that time, Fathom has assessed the fee to the city and immediately credited the fee back to the city, so in other words, the city has not paid that excess call volume fee since April 2017. We should know from discussions with Fathom on the potential of that in the future as well as discussions regarding the contract.”
Copperas Cove, Fort Hood, working on recycling agreement
Regarding the Recycling Intergovernmental Service Agreement, Haverlah explained that this is a partnership that Fort Hood and the city of Copperas Cove have been working on for nearly six years. Currently, the city of Copperas Cove takes all recyclable material to Taylor, Texas and since January 2019 have been paying to drop off the material.
“It goes back to the fact that China no longer takes as much recyclable material as it had in the past, and as a result of that, there’s a whole bunch of recyclable material that’s really not moving anywhere, unless you pay for it to be moved,” Haverlah said.
Through working with Congressional representatives, language was included in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow Copperas Cove to take its recyclable material to Fort Hood. The NDAA passed the House of Representatives with that language, but the language was removed before passing the Senate. It is now in a congressional committee, where members of Congress are working out a compromise.
City events status
Regarding the city’s community events, like the Fall-O-Ween Festival, Tree Lighting Ceremony and more, Haverlah explained that the city has had discussions with the Chamber of Commerce. When the city council allocated Hotel Occupancy Tax funds to the Chamber of Commerce and its application requests after designating it as the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, that left five community events previously organized by the city unfunded.
“We clearly know that the Fall-O-Ween event which occurs in October, the city will be, will continue to organize and run that event, and that is based on the fact that we are so close to the event, we’re going to continue that process,” Haverlah said. “The first event after that is the Tree Lighting Ceremony, and the Chamber, with our discussions, expressed interest in working with the city on taking over the organization and coordination of that event. The remainder of events that will occur in 2020, we are developing how those events can occur, the marketing of those events, and so we’ve started those discussions. We’re continuing those discussions and I can tell you that the Chamber, specifically with Alicia Menard, has been very good and easy and excited to be able to work with the city on those events.”
In a phone call with the Leader-Press, Chamber President Alicia Menard said that there are ongoing discussions and that more information on which events exactly the Chamber will be helping or taking over will be available by the next City Council meeting.
For Items for Future Agenda, Mayor Bradi Diaz said she would like to propose an item for future agenda as it results to the city council and a code of conduct, which council members agreed to.
During a workshop meeting held prior to the regular meeting, the city council recognized several employees for their years of service and one for their retirement.
The city recognized Jeff Davis, director of Human Resources, for five years of service; Carol Ballestoros, a Firefighter II/paramedic, for 15 years of service; and Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young, for 30 years of service.
Water Distribution Superintendent Daniel Hawbecker was recognized for 40 years of service and for his retirement from the city. Public Works Director Scott Osburn presented Hawbecker with a framed copy of the “Earlier Times of Copperas Cove” mural painted by the Five Hills Art Guild.
Mayor Diaz also read a proclamation declaring the week of September 23 to September 27, 2019 as
“Start With Hello Week”, which, with the help of the Copperas Cove High School DECA chapter, will implement one of nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise's core violence prevention programs, teaching students in grades 2 through 12 “the skills they need to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation and create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school or youth organization.”