Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the city of Humble has proposed a 4.5% higher FY 2020-21 budget operating expenditure than last year. The proposed operating expenditure is $118.64 million, while the FY 2019-20 operating budget was approved at $113.53 million.
Humble Mayor Merle Aaron said the city considered the current economic state brought on by the coronavirus pandemic but wanted to be "progressive" in FY 2020-21.
"We wanted to make sure we weren't running scared," Aaron said. "We're going to continue to grow the city because it's very important that we stay positive so the citizens will know we have a plan. We're going to go forth with the city being the first priority."
Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe said via email that city departments kept their budget requests tight to allow the city to push forward on critical projects next year.
"We still must be able to operate, and we still have critical needs and tasks that need to get done—pandemic or not—and I think that overall the budget reflects that balance," he said.
The general fund budget includes the $1 million purchase of a new fire engine to replace an old engine from 2000 as well as the Rankin Road expansion project, which was delayed and carried over from the FY 2019-20 budget due to the pandemic.
The budget also includes several drainage projects to reduce flooding in areas of Humble, such as Jordan's Gully, near FM 1960 Business and Dennis Street; and Black's Bayou in the Northshire subdivision.
"These have been needing to be dealt with for some time now, and we have reached a point where it is impacting residents and businesses at an unacceptable level and we could put it off no more," Stuebe said.
Jordan's Gully is in a low-lying area and floods chronically, Stuebe said. The $1.22 million project will mitigate flooding by cleaning the gully and potentially adding additional storage and detention space.
The $2.05 million Black's Bayou project is being paid for through a federal grant the city received for the 2015 and 2016 floods from the Texas General Land Office's Community Development Block Grant program, Stuebe said. He said the project includes cleaning and improving the flow and capacity in the drainage system, and the project will enter into the engineering and design phase in the next three months.
The city also continued its trend of raising its property tax rate for the fifth year in a row as it attempts to ease its reliance on sales tax revenue. The maximum allowable rate increase before going to voters for approval was reduced this year to 4% in 2020 because of Texas Senate Bill 2.
The city proposed a FY 2020-21 property tax rate of $0.260855 per $100 valuation—an 1.9% increase over the FY 2019-20 tax rate of $0.255944, and a 9.2% increase over the effective tax rate, according to the budget proposal.
"We are still waiting on certified [tax] rolls from [the Harris County Appraisal District], so that number could fluctuate ever so slightly before we provide notice on the adoption of the tax rate," Stuebe said.
The proposed budget will be brought to Humble City Council for approval Sept. 10. City Council will vote on the proposed tax rate Sept. 24, according to city officials.