Officials met for the first of several workshops Monday night to discuss the fiscal year 2018-19 budget. Mayor Justin Ray said he expects cash management to be a theme over the course of the workshops as the city looks to use cash to fund several priority projects as opposed to taking on debt.
"This year and next year we have cash intensive projects," Ray said at the workshop. "I want us to keep an eye on general fund cash management ... especially looking ahead at some of these projects we have coming up.”
In city budgeting, the general fund is considered the main fund used to keep a city operating throughout the year, separate from specialized funds meant for specific purposes, such as a utility fund or capital improvement fund.
Revenue for the general fund comes largely from taxes, including property and sales taxes. Departments that are funded through the general fund in Jersey Village include the fire department, public works, and parks and recreation, among others.
Early budget drafts for the 2018-19 general fund call for spending roughly $19.1 million, up from the $16.6 million projected to be spent by the end of the current fiscal year.
The draft budget projects about a $3 million shortfall between general fund revenue and expenses, which would require the city to dip into its reserves to make up the difference. As a result, general fund reserves would be lowered from $10.2 million down to an estimated $7.1 million.
City Manager Austin Bleess said the big driver behind the increase in expenses is an increase in the amount being transferred from the general fund to the capital improvement fund to pay for capital projects—$5.5 million in 2018-19, up from the $3.75 million in 2017-18.
Bleess said many of the capital improvement projects that will be funded over the next few years were identified as priorities in a comprehensive plan the city adopted in 2016, and that it makes sense for the city to use its reserves to help fund them where possible. He added that, under current plans, he is confident that Jersey Village will maintain enough reserves to operate in the event of an emergency situation.
The following projects were included, among others, in a draft of the Capital Improvement Program for the 2018-19 fiscal year:
- Flood recovery projects: A placeholder amount of $2 million is set aside for 2018-19 to fund the construction of a raised berm around the Jersey Meadow Golf Course and possibly for work related to drainage improvements or home elevations. Actual costs and timelines of these projects are still to be determined. The council authorized Bleess to send the berm project out for construction bids at the July 16 regular meeting.
- Installation of new wayfinding signage (entrance, gateway and marquee signs): The project is to be completed in phases with $1 million proposed to be spent in 2018-19.
- New city hall: $450,000 has been proposed to be spent on engineering work in 2018-19. Many details on the project, including its location, are still to be determined. About $4 million is proposed to be spent on construction costs in 2019-20.
- Construction of new golf course club house: A total of $1.6 million is proposed to be spent in 2018-19, which will come partially from hotel occupancy tax funds and partially from the general fund. The golf course has been subsidized by general fund revenue in the past, and officials hope a revamp of the club house will help make it self-sufficient. Several residents spoke during the citizen comment period of the July 16 meeting asking the council to create a business plan for the golf course and conduct a feasibility study for the new club house before investing in it.
Officials will continue to adjust the budget over the next few months with plans to adopt it before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.