After a budget public hearing and four budget workshops dating back to Aug. 9, the Bellaire City Council approved the fiscal year 2021-22 budget in a 4-2 vote.
General fund revenues totaled almost $23.2 million, and expenditures came in shy of $23 million, both increases compared to the previous year, according to Bellaire budget data.
For general fund revenues, one key to the increase lies with a nearly $739,000 projected increase in property tax revenue. This is despite the proposed tax rate of $0.4473 per $100 of assessed value—the same rate as the past two years, according to budget documents.
Another key lies with a $490,000 revenue increase based upon departmental cost recovery recommendations from a cost allocation plan and user fee study. That study, performed by an independent accounting firm and presented to the city council on July 19, estimated that Bellaire is under-recovering for its fee-related services by more than $4.2 million.
A final component of the increased revenue comes in the form of a recommended $448,000 increase in an annual enterprise fund to general fund transfer that the city performs to help pay for administrative staff who handle the enterprise fund’s billing needs.
That transfer had been $624,000 each year, but according to the user fee study, it would need to be bumped up to $1.072 million to adequately pay for the needed support costs.
Because water bills significantly support the enterprise fund, an increase in the money needed for that fund necessitates an increase in fees, according to city officials. As part of the FY 2021-22 budget, the Bellaire City Council approved a 9% increase in its water rate for residents, and 7% increases in wastewater and solid waste rates.
Another 10 items saw increases in year over year cost totaling close to $1.4 million. Included in that list are a $165,200 increase in health insurance costs for city employees, a $350,000 increase to the city’s fleet fund and approximately $330,000 in pay plan salary adjustments for the city’s employees.
An amendment offered for the budget had to do with these salary adjustments when Council Member Nathan Wesely proposed that 100% of the proposed adjustments go to those making less than $40,000 a year, 0% to those making greater than $80,000, and proportionally for those making between the two salaries. Ultimately, the motion failed 4-2.
While the City Council has approved the budget, it has not officially approved its tax rate for the FY 2021-22 tax year and will hold a public hearing on Oct. 4 to do so.
Overpaid sales tax
The city of Bellaire will pay $507,000 to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to cover the cost of overpaid sales tax revenue to the city.
The Bellaire City Council unanimously approved the payment to be made in one lump sum, rather than monthly payments, citing a 2% advance payment discount from the comptroller’s office.
That means instead of the nearly $695,000 the city owed the comptroller’s office, it will instead pay $682,574. The $507,000 requested by the city for approval was the difference between the total owed and the $175,000 that was already appropriated for sales tax repayments in FY 2020-21, according to city documents.
The notice of the overpayment from the comptroller’s office originally came in May 2020 after an address on a sales tax permit that was originally registered in Bellaire was never changed over to a city of Houston address after the owner moved, according to the comptroller’s office.