Increases in expenses and reductions in revenue have created a proposed City of Brownwood budget for the 2017-’18 fiscal year that is squeezed tight and contains utility rate hikes to offset those factors.
    Brownwood City Manager Emily Crawford’s proposed budget for the new fiscal year, released Friday, is just $34.58 million. That’s an increase of 2.97 percent over the current budget.
    Brownwood City Council members will have a budget workshop Tuesday to finalize discussion on the budget, which will be adopted Sept. 26.
    The proposed budget contains no pay raises for city employees and no increases in property taxes.
    According to a budget summary and explanation of budget factors:
    • Primary factors for the increase are increase in health insurance (14 percent), wastewater treatment plant bond payment ($338,516) and Meet and Confer personnel requests ($85,000).
    Those increases, combined with decreases in sales tax, water sales and sewer revenue lost from the City of Early’s new treatment plant ($168,000 this year), were more than the budget could absorb without revenue increases.
    • The proposed budget has had extensive cuts. Twelve department budgets are lower than last year, nine have increases of less than 3 percent and 10 have increases greater than 3 percent.
    • Property tax values are basically flat. Due to the tax freeze fr seniors and the disabled, the city’s tax on property subjected to the freeze will be reduced by $38372. Of properties not subjected to the freeze, property tax revenue will increase by $128,199 due to increases in value.
    •The budget projects decreases in sales tax (7.47 percent or $412,300), water sales (.46 percent or $28,966 after rate increases) and wastewater treatment.
    • Because the Brown County Water Improvement District is increasing the wholesale water rate by 3.59 percent, the proposed budget has a 6.84 percent increase in the retail water consumption rate. This will cover the increase in cost and provide additional funding to offset reductions in water sales.
    This would cost the average residential customer $1.6 more a month.
    The budget also proposes a 5 percent increase in the water base rate, which would mean a $1.26 monthly increase for a 3/4-inch residential meter. The increase, if adopted, would provide additional revenue to offset reduced water sales.
    • The City of Early will no longer use the Brownwood Wastewater Treatment Plant beginning in February 2018. This will mean a decrease in revenue of about $21,000 a month, or $168,000 in the fiscal year.
    • Bond payments for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant are $338,516, requiring an 8.4 percent increase in the sewer rate. An average residence using 8 minimum units would pay an additional $2.08 a month.
    • The city has not budgeted for stormwater drainage system maintenance, but the infrastructure is aging and funds are needed to repair and maintain stormwater pipes. The budget proposes the addition of a new stormwater drainage fee on utility bills of $2 a  month for residential accounts and $5 a month for non-residential accounts, which would generate $226,700 to the budget.
    * The budget proposes a 5 percent increase in the trash collection rate, the first increase in five years. The rate would increase by $1.05 a month for a residential account and by $3.02 a month for a minimum commercial account.
    The proposed increase would offset revenue reductions and cover higher operating costs.
    • Other proposed increases include landfill gate rates and utility rates including disconnect fees, specialty services, citizen’s convenience center, late payment charges and tap fees.
    Miscellaneous Fee Ordinance rates are proposed to increase 5 percent for rental and alarm service fees. Camp Bowie pool fees have not changes since the pool opened in 2008, and the budget proposes a $1 per person increase.