August 2, 2016

FY 2017 Budget Season is Underway

The City's annual budget reflects our priorities as a community, balancing the services and improvements we desire against the costs of delivering them. It also takes account of the bigger picture, representing a set of short-term decisions within the context of longer-term planning.

Budget season runs from the Council planning session in May through final adoption in September, but it's really a year-round process as Council gives policy direction on a variety of issues that are ultimately addressed in the budget. For example, over a period of several months Council expressed its commitment to meaningful increases in public safety compensation, to improve our recruitment and retention of police officers and fire fighters. That discussion culminated in direction to the City Manager back in February to provide additional salary enhancements and incentive pay, and to bring base salaries to the 75th percentile among comparator communities. All such decisions throughout the year have an obvious budgetary impact that is captured when the City Manager presents the proposed budget each July. For that reason, there aren't many surprises in the document.

The FY 2017 proposed budget and presentation are available on the City website, here). A hard copy is also on file at the Bellaire City Library.

The proposed budget represents an increase in General Fund operating expenditures by approximately $1.3 million, or 6.7%, over FY 2016. More than $1 million of that increase is for competitive, market-based salary and benefits adjustments, of which more than $850,000 is for the 75th percentile for Police and Fire as mentioned above.

Still under careful consideration in the Enterprise Fund are the water rate increases necessary to support ongoing efforts to maintain a positive fund balance and new bonds for critical utilities infrastructure improvements. Following the July 11 town hall meeting on this subject, Council directed the City Manager to come back with a revised proposal responsive to the public input it had received: (i) to place greater emphasis on incentivizing water conservation as a stated policy objective, and (ii) to phase-in rate increases more gradually, preferably over three years, rather than all at once. The final plan will be incorporated in the budget for the Enterprise Fund.

The City's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) lays out anticipated projects over a five-year time period; each annual budget funds a portion of those projects. Highlights from the proposed $3.3 million CIP for FY 2017 include a continuation of our $2 million annual commitment to roadway pavement improvements ($1.2 million of which is paid for with METRO funds), water and wastewater system repairs and upgrades, a flood plain hazard mitigation plan, a community pathways master plan for pedestrian and cyclist mobility, playground and park amenities, and aquatic center improvements.

Over the next few months there will be multiple opportunities for public input as we continue to refine the budget before final deliberation and adoption:

  • August 15 - City Council Regular Session; Budget Public Hearing
  • August 16 - Budget Workshop #1
  • August 29 - Budget Workshop #2 and Bond Election Town Hall Meeting
  • September 12 - City Council Regular Session
  • September 19 - City Council Regular Session; Budget Adoption