No one spoke at Denton’s first public hearing Tuesday night on the 2013-14 budget, neither on the planned expenditures that include a rate hike for all the city’s utility customers nor on the property tax rate, which is proposed to remain at 68.975 cents per $100 valuation.
Dozens of seats were filled with people who came to hear proclamations in support of Women’s Right to Vote Week, for the League of Women Voters, and Live United Month, in support of United Way, and Miss Texas 2013, who attends graduate school at Texas Woman’s University. About a dozen people lingered because their properties were affected by a Denton Municipal Electric power line to be built in the northeast part of the city.
Chuck Springer, the city’s finance director, helped open the public hearing with a brief summary of next year’s budget plan, which includes 48 new hires, pay raises for employees and more money to be shifted toward street maintenance and reconstruction.
The city and its utility departments, including DME, are expected to bring in about $825.96 million in 2013-14. The city expects to spend $825.45 million, Springer said.
The expenditures, which include a number of supplemental programs that the City Council is still discussing, would involve the city beginning to spend down a reserve fund balance. At previous council meetings, the staff has provided a five-year forecast that shows spending from the general fund outpacing revenue, and tapping those reserves, by about $2 million per year, until the general fund balance is reduced and represents about 13.2 percent of expenditures in 2017-18.
The average Denton household would pay $232.71 per month for electric, water, sewer and trash services, up from $226 per month this year, after the rate increases proposed for next year are adopted, Springer said.
The average property tax bill this year will be $1,083, compared to $1,065 last year. The city does not plan to change the property tax rate from 68.975 cents per $100 valuation, but the increase in the average home value, which is based on the market, could mean many Denton homeowners ultimately will pay more.
Although not included in the public hearings, the City Council continued to discuss budget matters in its work sessions Tuesday and last week.
Tuesday afternoon, council members learned that the city would need to find about $2.9 million more to pay for the widening of Bonnie Brae Street between U.S. Highway 380 and U.S. Highway 377. But a proposal to update the city’s 10-year-old economic development strategic plan stayed on the table as representatives from the Denton Chamber of Commerce said they would help find funding partners for the project, which is expected to cost well over $100,000.
Last week, the council began talks that could ultimately assess fees, either to residents or to developers, or both, to pay for street work.
But no one addressed the council on those matters Tuesday night.
The City Council’s next scheduled meeting is Sept. 10, when it will again discuss the budget in a workshop session and hold its second public hearing on the budget and tax rate during its regular meeting.
The council is expected to adopt the 2013-14 budget on Sept. 17.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
IN OTHER ACTION
Also during its regular meeting Tuesday, the Denton City Council:
Authorized an oil and gas lease with Eagleridge Energy for 10.0513 acres in the 3100 block of West Prairie Street.
Began eminent domain proceedings on seven parcels of land needed for a Denton Municipal Electric expansion project, known as the Spencer to Denton North Interchange transmission line.
Amended a consulting contract with AR/WS Texas to procure and deliver land rights for the transmission line for up to $191,800.
Awarded a three-year utility consulting services contract with Resolved Energy Consulting for Denton Municipal Electric for up to $520,000.
Awarded Kirkpatrick Architecture Studio a $555,500 contract to design Fire Station No. 2.
Awarded engineering contracts to Graham Associates for the widening of Vintage Boulevard and Bonnie Brae Street for $2 million.
Amended an engineering contract with Freese and Nichols for the widening of Mayhill Road for up to $488,835.
Approved the purchase of a wheel loader for the water distribution department from Romco Equipment Co. for $143,580.
Adopted a resolution supporting Proposition 6 on the November 2013 Texas Constitutional Amendment Election to fund water projects.
Authorized $115 million in revenue bonds by the Colorado Health Facilities Authority on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.
— Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe