More than a dozen residents spoke in a full capacity Pflugerville City Hall Sept. 17 as the city held its second public hearing regarding its proposed tax rate increase. Following the discussion, Pflugerville City Council voted to consider a revised budget proposal at its Sept. 24 meeting in addition to the city's originally proposed budget.
Pflugerville City Council voted 4-2 in favor of a budget scope, proposed by Council Member Jeff Marsh, that would reduce some of the city's expenditures outlined in city staff's original proposal for fiscal year 2019-20 and create a new proposed property tax rate following those trimmings. Council Members Rudy Metayer and Jim McDonald voted against the motion, while Council Member Mike Heath was not present at the Sept. 17 meeting.
Marsh's budget proposal specifically highlighted the city's $278,000 allotment to a CapMetro public transportation program, requesting that city staff reduce it to a $128,000 negotiation with CapMetro that focused on a ride share voucher program as opposed to a set route. The revised budget proposal Marsh outlined would also reduce the scope of city council's portion of the city budget from $30,000 annually to $6,000. Based on the two modifications, city staff are then asked to propose a new tax rate for consideration and potential adoption.
The revised proposal followed more than an hour's worth of discussion from council members regarding what budget revisions, if any, should be made by city staff for consideration and potential adoption. The final adoption of both the city's property tax rate and budget will take place during council's Sept. 24 meeting before fiscal year 2019-20 goes into effect Oct. 1.
“I fully believe our budget, that the city manager proposed, is exceptional," Marsh said, adding that he believed the council needed to compromise on spending allocations and that the proposed tax rate of $0.5045 per $100 of taxable value was not "necessary."
McDonald, who serves as part of the city's finance and budget committee, said he stood behind the work the committee, city staff and City Manager Sereniah Breland did in trimming the budget down to its current price tag, listed at approximately $187 million.
We are looking at a solid budget, at a conservative budget," McDonald said. "If we were not one of the fastest growing populations in the country [...] if we weren’t looking at revenue caps in terms of figuring out next year what we can allocate and spend, then I would be onboard with what y’all are considering. But I think, in my opinion, it would be fiscally irresponsible.”
Other ideas floated by council members to revise the city's budget included keeping the city's tax rate at its current rate of $0.4976 per $100 of taxable value and having the Pflugerville Community Development Corp., whose budget is approved by the council, to help fund approximately $437,000 in city-based transportation, parks and recreation and development projects. The $437,000 figure, as outlined by city staff, is the approximate amount needed to slash from Pflugerville's current budget proposal to maintain the current tax rate.
Council Member Doug Weiss, who serves as council liaison to the PCDC, made a motion for city staff to work with a budget based on the current tax rate based on accommodating for increased sales tax revenue projections, modifying the city's wood chipping program, provide potential cuts to the council's budget and revising the scope of the CapMetro public transportation program. Current sales tax revenue projections are listed at a 7% increase, which Weiss said he believes is an underestimate.
"I’ve heard tonight that if we had more money, we’d find ways to spend it," Weiss said. Weiss' motion failed 4-2.
Mayor Pro-Tem Omar Peña supported the budget presented by Breland and her staff and said that it is within the city manager's job description to manage the city in the way she deems most beneficial to both the residents and the services they require.
“I think we’ve got to have faith in our staff to go off and execute accordingly, and as a council, hold them accountable to doing more with what they’ve got," Peña said. "And that’s the best of what we can ask ourselves and our staff.”
Following council approval of redirecting city staff to create a revised budget proposal, Pflugerville City Council will consider the amended budget proposal at its Sept. 24 meeting in addition to the city's originally proposed budget.The city will also adopt the city's property tax rate and budget for fiscal year 2019-20 at its Sept. 24 meeting.