During a special-called Humble City Council meeting Aug. 17, city officials held a budget workshop for the upcoming fiscal year outlining the various projects the city hopes to accomplish in FY 2021-22.
"I just want to thank the leadership, department heads and all of you who have worked hard through this process," Mayor Norman Funderburk said at the start of the workshop. "This is my eighth year working through this process, and every year I'm just so impressed with the process. What we're looking at and talking about today is the culmination of about 4.5 months of work, and the end result is a budget that has been looked at, reviewed, refined, and there have been so many discussions, so many different layers of vetting. ... In my background, what I always say is 'You plan the work and you work the plan,' and this budget is going to serve the city well."
According to City Manager Jason Stuebe, the city's total estimated beginning balances and revenue amount to roughly $136.6 million with total planned expenditures adding up to approximately $85.6 million. City officials are estimating a total budget surplus of about $51 million including about $39.5 million in general fund surplus.
"We hold this amount in reserve as our 'rainy day fund'—what floats us in the event of a catastrophic hurricane or a global pandemic," Stuebe said in an email Aug. 18. "As a matter of practicality, because we do not have at present any general obligation debt, we have a policy of 'pay as you go' so we save for major projects in the future through the surplus/reserve balance."
While Humble City Council will not approve a tax rate for FY 2021-22 until later this year, the proposed budget is built on a proposed tax rate of $0.262115 per $100 assessed value, which is based on the city's total assessed value of about $2.3 billion. If approved, this tax rate would be an increase from that of FY 2020-21, which was set at $0.258693.
Among capital project funds included in the FY 2021-22 budget are $4.5 million to build Fire Station No. 2; $90,000 to remodel the former Parks Department Building to accommodate the building maintenance department; $2 million to build a new senior activity center, which will be located between the Octavia Fields Branch Library and the former senior activity center/new Fire Station No. 2; and $300,000 to rebuild an existing water department building. The proposed budget also includes $30,000 to fund additional murals on Main Street and $25,000 to add green space next to the Humble Museum.
The proposed budget also includes funds for several infrastructure projects, including $2 million for the Rankin Road and bridge project, $2 million for the Blacks Bayou drainage project, about $1.5 million for Jordans Gully drainage improvements and nearly $2 million for the South Bender Avenue reconstruction project.
The city also plans to add seven new positions to its staff, including one full-time fire department position, three full-time police department positions, two full-time building department positions and one part-time fire marshal department position.
While the proposed budget as presented Aug. 17 did not include any cost-of-living or merit-based step increases for city staff, Stuebe said Humble city administration recommended the council consider a 3% cost-of-living increase to be paid to all employees as a one-time, lump-sum payment. In a 5-0 vote, the council approved this amendment to be added to the proposed budget prior to the public hearing. Council Member David Pierce was not present at the budget workshop.
"In regards to the merit-based step increases, staff is continuing to develop and implement a performance management system that is necessary to move that forward," Stuebe said. "Therefore, the administration is advising that once the performance management piece is complete and evaluations have been done, we will revisit the possibility of step increases mid-year, likely sometime within the first 60 to 90 days of 2022. It is also our recommendation that should the funds be available, the merit-based step increases would be retroactive to Oct. 3, 2021."
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.