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Denton city council mulls 2014 budget

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

The City Council looked ahead to the 2014 budget over a lunch meeting on Monday and began talking priorities, which included seeking administrative support for the council itself.

Some of the discussion focused on the city’s strategic plan and whether operations were meeting targets for various goals and objectives. Other parts of the discussion looked much further ahead, including a request from several on the council for administrative support for the mayor and an internship program to support council members.

“As the city grows, we need to think about where we’re heading with this, including adding staff incrementally,” said council member Kevin Roden. “It might require charter amendment discussions.”

Mayor Pro Tem Pete Kamp echoed the need, saying it may not affect anyone currently sitting on council but it would likely be needed in the future as the city continues to grow.

But for the most part, the discussion of budget priorities wrapped around five key focus areas in the city’s strategic plan: organizational excellence; public infrastructure; sustainable economic development and environmental stewardship; safe, livable, family-friendly community; and partnerships and regional leadership.

Assistant City Manager Bryan Langley reminded the council that the city’s finance department prepared quarterly financial reports that compiled measures of goals and objectives under those focus areas. In many areas, City Hall was on or above target with the measures. And in those areas below target or significantly below target, the city staff was considering what was needed to meet the target and whether that needed to be a part of the budget discussion, Langley said.

For example, one goal under “organizational excellence” is to use technology to increase productivity, and one objective under that goal is to have more of the city’s utility customers receive bills online, Langley said.

Close to half the customers pay online, Langley said, but just 6.1 percent receive their bills online.

“We’d like to get that to 10 percent eventually,” Langley said.

City Manager George Campbell said that the performance measures prove valuable in discussions with department heads. The city tries to set realistic goals, but still stretch as it meets objectives. “Below target,” which means the department is within 5 percent of meeting an objective, is coded yellow in the quarterly reports. “Significantly below target,” or 5 percent or more from reaching an objective, is coded red.

“The red and yellow is a great tool for the management,” Campbell said. “We don’t want [managers] to get paranoid, but it tells us something about our organization.”

Council member James King and Mayor Mark Burroughs sought reassurance that values of customer satisfaction, and not just customer service, remained part of the strategic plan. Burroughs also sought reassurance the goals and objectives didn’t specifically press code enforcement officers to write more notices of violations. He hoped, too, there were no plans to continue to hire more officers. The division has come under fire recently for some of its proactive measures to seek out and address code violations.

Campbell assured him that the council’s concerns about proactive code enforcement were heard at a recent retreat. The division will continue its work toward demolishing or rehabilitating dangerous buildings, he said.

Other potential funding priorities were still on the table Monday, including a downtown shuttle service and reinvestment grants, more funding for bike lanes, community market enhancements, restoring council contingency funds, more funding for the human services advisory committee, and dedicating staff to development projects.

The council also asked for several reports, including funding the Denton Firefighters’ Museum, a proposed museum at Rayzor Ranch and Denton’s return-on-investment criteria for economic incentives.

Several council members also asked the staff to bring information related to updating the city’s 10-year-old economic development plan.

The city manager’s office asked council members to forward any other priorities by Friday, although Campbell told the council that was simply a courtesy deadline and information was always welcome.

The council’s first crunch-the-numbers look at the budget will be June 18, Langley said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.


Some of next year’s budget may consider where Denton has come in below targets in five key focus areas of the city’s strategic plan. The staff told the City Council on Monday that, overall, the city is on or above target in 77.2 percent of objectives related to the plan. Another 8.9 percent of objectives are below target but within 5 percent of reaching the target, and 13.9 percent of objectives are more than 5 percent from reaching the target.

Here is a list of those items. More details can be found on the city’s website:

Objectives currently below target

Invoices paid within 30 days

Building permits issued within 10 days

Increase percent of utility customers receiving electronic billing

Clearance rate for violent and property crimes

Increase number of parks programs meeting participation requirements

Food establishments receive rating of 80 or better

Nuisance code violations abated

Objectives significantly below target

Performance reviews complete within 30 days of due date

Tech services requests, 95 percent completed within 5 days

Waste diverted from landfill

Pre-applications and plats reviewed timely by development review committee

Increase value in commercial building permits; new infill development (economic development)

Increase online citizen crime reports

Increase number of fire inspections, food establishment inspections

Respond to 90 percent of all structure fires in five minutes or less

Enhance fire training to align with state and insurance standards

Cases processed in municipal court

Dangerous buildings demolished or repaired

SOURCE: City of Denton, FY 2012-13, 1st Quarter Financial Report