by A.C. Hall
The Benbrook City Council held their first public hearing for their upcoming budget last week. While no one present at the meeting spoke during the meeting, a rundown of the budget was given by Finance Director Sherri Newhouse. One major point made was the effect the Highway 377 construction is going to have on sales tax income. Newhouse outlined a projected decrease of $200,000 due to the construction inconvenience factor, and said they’re prepared for it to be even higher than that.
“We are trying to keep our reserves high in case that loss is even more,” Newhouse said.
As she outlined a budget with few highlights and no cost of living increases for employees, council member Larry Marshall spoke about the reasons the budget is so conservative.
“We’re scared of the impact of Highway 377,” Marshall said.
He drove home the point that just because the budget is conservative doesn’t mean city staff didn’t put any effort into it. He spoke about the recognition Benbrook has received in the past over how well they run their finances. He also highlighted the department heads and city employees who managed their needs and helped keep the budget conservative.
“They’ve made sacrifices,” Marshall said.
He went on to say that the city could lose $700,000 in sales tax income over two years of the Highway 377 construction but that the city has been ready to do the project since 2005 and that it’s an important undertaking.
“We want Highway 377 because it is a gift to our city,” Marshall said.
The city is expecting revenues of $16.3 million in the budget with expenditures estimated at $17 million. Existing funds will be used to cover the difference.
$200,000 is being transferred to Capital Asset Replacement as the city continues to build up money in that account towards buying a new fire truck. This is the second year they’ve made the transfer and the hope is to have enough to purchase the fire truck in a few more years.
While there is no cost of living increase for employees, funds are in the budget that can be used to give merit raises to some employees. There’s also money set aside for an expected ten percent increase in the cost of health insurance.
The budget includes funds to replace four police patrol vehicles, as well as funds to purchase a Can Am Roadster traffic unit. The Can Am Roadster features two wheels in the front and one wheel in the back. Body worn cameras will also be purchased for the police department.
Following up on a request from the fire department, the budget will eliminate six part time positions in the fire department.
“They’re having a very hard time with their part time positions and keeping them filled,” Newhouse said.
Those six part time positions are being replaced with three full time fireghter/emt positions.
Around $100,000 is in the budget for a replacement ambulance. The city received a $50,000 grant from Tarrant County to use towards the purchase.
The budget is expected to be adopted in September.
A public hearing was also held on the proposed property tax rate. The rate will remain unchanged from last year, staying at .6575. No one at the meeting spoke during the public hearing on the tax rate. Council is required to have two public hearings on the tax rate before adopting it.