Council approves tax rate, 2016-2017 budget
By LYNETTE SOWELL
At Tuesday’s Copperas Cove city council meeting, the council voted unanimously to adopt the city’s 2016-2017 budget and plan of municipal services, amendments to the city’s fee schedule, as well as the 2016 ad valorem tax rate.
The city’s budgeted revenues over all funds is $36,652,826, with $36,703,640 in expenditures for the 2016-2017 budget.
The approved tax rate will remain the same rate as 2015, $0.797908 per $100 of taxable assessed value.
Keeping the tax rate the same ups the city’s property tax revenue compared to last year by $254,252, which is a 2.58 percent increase.
As part of the consent agenda, the council voted to approve Hotel Occupancy Tax funds to the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce for the reporting period between April 1 and June 30, 2016, in the amount of $21,171.50.
The council also approved an agreement between the city and the firm of Weaver and Tidwell, LLP to conduct the city’s annual audit for $48,000 from budgeted funds, and approved a resolution to accept the dedication of a utility easement from Robert and Kathryn Nauert, for the infrastructure needed for the Creekside Hills development along FM 116.
Two items were pulled from Tuesday night’s agenda, that of authorizing a no-cost change order and to waive liquidated damages for the Fire Station #2 project, and that of approving an agreement between the city and Copperas Cove Athletic Officials Association (CCAOA) to provide sports officiating for the Parks and Recreation Department.
The council also voted to approve the 2016-2017 budget for the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation, which was previously been approved by the EDC board.
It was not a unanimous vote, with place 7 councilman Matt Russell casting the lone nay vote after the subject of Heart of Texas Defense Alliance funding came up again. He said he still wanted to see some measurable benefit to the city itself to justify the funding. During the preceding discussion, Gardner said the city could not pay the entire HOTDA funding of $17,000, and that the EDC did receive some benefit from HOTDA and so would pay its own share of the funds, based on a discussion she had with EDC interim executive director Monica MacKay.
Additionally, the council voted to accept a proposal from Raftelis to perform a utility rate study of the water, sewer, and drainage funds, at a cost of $67,350, from five proposals received.
It also approved a professional services agreement with The Payment Group, LLC which will now process municipal court payments for the city.
The EDC now has three new board members for places 1, 3 and 5. Christian Mulvey, Adam Martin and Harald Weldon were voted on and appointed by the council to those spots. The three replace board members Jerry Smith, Bradi Diaz and Jack Smith. Smith recently resigned from the EDC because of taking a new teaching job, with Diaz and Smith choosing not to reapply for those positions and their terms expiring on Sept. 30.
Diaz, a longtime board member, spoke a few words to the council about her departure and began by thanking the council who originally appointed her to the board for the opportunity.
“I think we did good things while we were working together. I appreciate this council and the hard work that you do. We may not see eye to eye on some of the things that the city has in its future, but that’s democracy at its best,” Diaz told the seated council. “I do appreciate you and the job you guys are doing. it’s not always fun and it’s not always easy, but I do appreciate the opportunity.”
The transitioning of the four EDC employees to become city employees was the subject of the workshop discussion preceding the council meeting.
City manager Andrea Gardner presented a list of items regarding the EDC personnel, several of which were discussed Tuesday evening, to include which positions would stay and how those positions would be changed, if at all.
For the executive director position, the council discussed and agreed with Gardner that as interim executive director, Monica MacKay would continue receive her salary of director of business development, plus 10 percent, in keeping with the city employee policy.
As far as the director of business development position itself, that is one position Gardner said the city should look at possibly outsourcing those services. If outsourcing that position would be more beneficial to the EDC and the city as opposed to being performed by an employee in-house. She said “many departments” in the city have outsourced services in the past.
For the director of business retention, the job responsibilities will be redefined, but without a reduction in salary.
The EDC’s full-time office administrator positions will be modified. That position is recommended to be reduced to an office accountant only, as Gardner said the city has no need for more office administrator positions. That position would also come with a pay reduction that would fall in line with similar positions in the city. It was recommended that the part-time office coordinator would be eliminated,
She recommended to the council that those EDC employees in those positions would have until Jan. 7, 2017 to decide if they would stay with the city or make other arrangements, although the new jobs will take effect on October 1. She added that if there are other vacancies in the city, those employees would also have the chance at those jobs, just as the prior employees of the Utilities Department.
The EDC would have its own code as a separate department of the city. Gardner also presented a draft of a reimbursement agreement for services by city employees who have spent time working with her on this transition plan. Each of those individuals, including Gardner, would clock in under a pay code so they will be reimbursed for the time spent on this planning. Under city code, she said, the EDC must reimburse the city for work done on its behalf.
On Tuesday, September 27 at 6 p.m., the council will have a special meeting to continue discussions and recommendations regarding transitioning the EDC employees under the umbrella of the city.