Budget talks underway with local crime board

crime budget

By A.C. Hall

The White Settlement Crime Board met last week to discuss their upcoming fiscal year 2013-2014 budget.  This budget funds a portion of the White Settlement Police Department, with the general fund taking on the larger part.  The budget is projecting $1.12 million in expenditures and $1.2 million in revenues with an ending balance of $432,819.  

The expected $1.2 million in sales tax revenue for the Crime Board is down $300,000 from what was budgeted in 2012 – 2013.

“Sales tax has not been what we thought it would be,” City Manager Linda Ryan told the crime board.

When asked by board member Stan Bastek if there was any anticipation that sales tax was going to fall off over the past year, Ryan responded that they didn’t see it coming.

“We had no way of knowing,” Ryan said.

Ryan spoke about the city’s largest tax payer, Weir SPM, and how they had a severe slowdown in sales that caused the city to bring in much lower sales tax than they estimated.  She went on to say that Weir sales should be ramping back up, meaning an imminent increase in sales tax, and also spoke about some other new businesses like Flight Deck that are bringing in a lot of customers.

The ongoing Hawaiian Falls negotiations were also mentioned, as Ryan said the city staff truly believes that getting this water park will be a turning point for the City.

“It will bring White Settlement back to where it needs to be,” Ryan said.

WSPD Chief Jack Ely was on hand to guide the board through the budget and to answer any questions they had about it.  When asked why the crime watch was being discontinued, Ely said it was due to a lack of interest from citizens.

“We’ve got no takers,” Ely said.  The crimemappers website that shows a map of the city and crimes that have been committed in locations will also be taken offline soon, as it was said it received very little use.

Other budget highlights include $110,000 for three new vehicles, $22,000 for furniture and fixtures, and $19,000 for building improvements that were put on hold to save money last year.  There is also $100,000 in the budget for fuel costs.  This is typically handled in the general fund WSPD budget, but is being taken on by the crime board in the upcoming year.

The budget also has several large items falling off such as a $120,000 payment to Motorola for new radios.  The 2012 – 2013 payment was the last one, freeing up this money in the upcoming budget.

Bastek, who has been on the crime board for well over a decade, said he felt it was a fair and balanced budget.  He said the WSPD is good at knowing what they do and don’t need.

“I’ve seen chiefs ask for things that are ridiculous,” Bastek said as he praised the sensible budget Ely presented.

Board member David Mann has experience in law enforcement and voiced his opinion that Ely may not be asking for enough in the budget.

“I think you need more than what you’re asking for,” Mann said.

Another budget item that was discussed is $10,000 in funding for the Caring for Cubs program ran at Liberty Elementary.  Teachers from Liberty were on hand to speak about the program that sees at risk and underprivileged students given something to do after school.

Representatives from Liberty said the program was also focusing on those who were academically at risk, with tutors hired to help prepare for the STAAR standardized test.

After school clubs are also offered at Liberty, and those with good behavior get to take part in them.  Teachers volunteer their time to run the clubs.

There are 450 students in the clubs, but 57 take part in the special Cubs in Cowtown program.  This group is made up of students that are handpicked by teachers as individuals who may not get certain experiences at home.  They are taken on a field trip each month to places like museums and the Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth.

When asked why students from other schools aren’t involved in this program, a board member was told it was a transportation issue and it would take more funding to make that happen.

The board agreed to leave the $10,000 of funding for  Caring for Cubs in the budget.

The Crime Board will meet again on Thursday at 6 p.m. to hold a public hearing on their budget and then possibly pass the budget.