City Manager David Esquivel said the city of Tomball is eyeing an additional $4 million in general fund revenue for the ongoing fiscal year 2020-21, which he credits to growth in property and sales tax revenue as well as that from new development. Esquivel presented the city’s proposed FY 2021-22 budget to City Council members during workshops July 6 and 19.

“Revenue projections ... are significantly higher than what we originally thought or budgeted. A lot of those are from property tax evaluations [and] sales tax has come in much stronger than what we anticipated or what we budgeted for,” Esquivel said. “With all the development and growth we’re seeing, the water and gas taps, those revenues are extremely high.”

However, expenses for the ongoing fiscal year are anticipated to be over budget by about $242,000, he said, following infrastructure and facility repairs from Winter Storm Uri, which hit the state in February. The city also has sustained additional expenses for energy costs following the winter storm, such as a $2.7 million natural gas bill the city paid in March and a $229,663 charge for ancillary fees from the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which council members approved June 21 paying initially in monthly installments.

Looking forward, Tomball’s proposed budget for the upcoming FY 2021-22, which will begin Oct. 1, totals $52.39 million in expenses with anticipated revenue totaling $53.34 million, according to the proposed budget. General fund expenses are budgeted to increase $1.74 million from FY 2020-21, according to the proposed budget, as training, travel and other city expenses were reduced during the pandemic.

The proposed budget for FY 2021-22 is based on no change in the city’s tax rate of $0.337862 per $100 valuation, according to city information.

Major expenses for the upcoming fiscal year include investments into city personnel, public safety and parks. Council members approved a 1% salary increase July 19 for city employees, effective immediately, with an additional 3% salary increase included in the proposed budget.

The budget plans for the funding of three battalion chiefs for the fire department. These battalion chiefs would function as outside observers during fires, playing three to four different roles while managing the response to the fire, Assistant Fire Chief Tanner Drake said July 19. The budget also funds the conversion of a current part-time deputy fire marshal to full time.

Esquivel said these positions are needed due to the growth the city is expecting. City officials previously said approximately 2,200 homes are underway or planned in the next five years.

“This town is exploding,” Council Member Derek Townsend said July 6. “It’s growing, and we need to make sure we’re on top of the wave for both fire and police.”

Additional public safety improvements include $20,000 for a K-9 unit, $60,000 for new police department radios and $21,500 for a drone for the police department. Police Chief Jeff Bert said the budget reflects his desire for the department to have the best equipment.

“The things I’m asking for are the things that are going to keep the men and women I have here whole and safe,” Bert said July 19.

During the July 19 workshop meeting, Townsend asked why the city is not funding the addition of new police officers to handle the growth, given the personnel being added to the fire department for the same reason. Bert responded that he has not seen a significant increase in crime to warrant more officers at the moment but said he could see himself asking for more personnel in the future.

The budget also includes $100,000 for improvements to Matheson Park, including new park equipment, the installation of a walking trail, the construction of a splash pad and four pickleball courts. The city was awarded a $750,000 matching grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department for the project and received $820,000 from the Tomball Regional Health Foundation, the Tomball Economic Development Corp. and HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball, city officials said.

Council will hold public hearings Aug. 16 and Sept. 7 on the proposed FY 2021-22 budget before voting to adopt it in September.