By Moses Leos III
An upswing in the economy has Buda anticipating a “favorable position” when it comes to the 2014-15 budget.
However, with the process still in its early stages, city manager Kenneth Williams hesitates to take a strong position on next year’s budget.
“It’s still early in the process. We don’t have the numbers yet,” Williams said. “We are in the process of formulating numbers.”
That cautious optimism was fueled by the city’s anticipated year-end financials for fiscal year 2013-14.Those numbers were disclosed at the city’s initial FY 2014-2015 budget meeting on May 7.
According to projections, the city stood to gain $405,938 in total sales tax revenue from the year previous. It’s compounded by double-digit sales tax increases in all but three months, ranging from October to April 2013.
Williams said the biggest gain stemmed from the city’s property tax revenue. Projections showed the city attaining a surplus of $2.5 million; roughly $1 million going to the city’s general fund. He also said the city’s property tax appraisals are projected to be eight percent above last year’s mark.
Buda stands to finish the year in the black, with a surplus of nearly $7 million dollars. Revenues are projected to finish $1.9 million over budget.
“Our sales tax revenues are up, our property taxes revenues are up, and our development fees are back up because we are building,” Williams said. “Based on that periphery we are anticipating a good revenue market.”
It’s a far cry from 2011, when Williams said the recession dealt a hit to the city’s revenue. Between 2008 and 2010, the city received one million dollars less in general fund revenue.
The uptick in the economy, along with growth, was positive enough for Finance Director Sidonna Faust to tell city council at the May 7 meeting that Buda won’t see a shortfall in the initial budget process.
Initial projections for the 2013-14 budget had Buda in the red by more than $800,000. The Westside Well and Bonita Vista projects forced the city to increase the property tax rate to the rollback rate of .29 cents per $100 evaluation to get back in the black.
Williams also tabbed recent annexations, which have increased property tax numbers. That also helped Buda become less dependent on sales tax revenues.
“We have done a good job of planning,” Williams said. “City council made a lot of difficult decisions in the last budget cycle. They did a good job of getting our fund balances where we need to go.”
Now the city focuses on the upcoming 2014-15 budget. Several projects loom on the horizon, including the construction of the Garlic Creek Force Main, the expansion of the downtown Wastewater Treatment Plant and a rewrite of the Unified Development Code.
“I think we are in an advantageous position for the city, looking preliminarily, to take on major projects, such as infrastructure, public safety and quality of life,” Williams said.
The latter three issues topped the city council’s budget “wish list”. Williams said the process was done to assess the direction of the council, which has seen five new members reach the dais in the last five years.
However, property tax rates are still an unknown. In addition, the prospect of a bond election is in “the back of everyone’s mind,” according to Williams. While it won’t directly affect the 2014-2015 budget, it could affect planning down the road.
With that information, Williams and staff will focus on completing the initial budget, which Buda plans to release at a June 22 workshop.
“We’re seeing what we can put together so we can improve on our infrastructure and quality of life issues in Buda,” Williams said. “We’ll take some information from the bond committee. We’ll see what city council wants to do, and all of that will be implemented in the budget.”