“There’s just a lot of uncertainty for what the next few years bring,” Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg said at the end of City Council’s June 8 council workshop. “Personally, I want to err conservatively in assuming that I don’t want to build my fiscal '21 budget around an expectation of increased spending in out years that we just don’t know yet.”
Friedberg, along with other members of Bellaire City Council, provided city staff with clear direction in two main areas as the city enters the budget process: attempt to maintain existing services while not charging additional property taxes. As it stands, Bellaire property owners pay $0.4473 per $100 of valuation, a rate approved Oct. 7, 2019, during the 2020 budget process.
The council’s June 8 workshop was preliminary; no budget line item decisions will be made until further into the budget process when City Manager Paul Hofmann will take the direction from council and return July 20 with a proposed budget, should the financials check out with such parameters.
“We certainly hear the call for additional efficiency,” Hofmann said. “The budget process we are going through includes that attempt to find efficiencies within current operations and resources. If I’m not able to make the math work, we’ll quantify that, and come back through more workshops to hammer out more specifics.”
City staff provided council with several fiscal forecast scenarios to mull, each with different revenue and expense assumptions, though no decision was made to choose one over the other, as the city is still early in the budget process.
Further questions that will need to be answered by the council as the budget process continues include assumptions about new development, a plan for increased compensation for the existing workforce and re-evaluating city fees.