EARLY — A handful of senior citizens asked Early City Council members Tuesday to tighten the city’s belt as the council prepared to adopt the tax rate, budget and water rates for the new fiscal year.

Council members and City Administrator Ken Thomas responded that the city’s needs are growing in areas including street, sewer and water improvements and that council members had worked on the budget since July in an effort to trim expenses.

The council adopted a budget of $4.5 million — up from the current budget of $4.1 million — and a tax rate of 53.81 cents per $100 valuation. The tax rate, up from the current rate of 50.97 cents per $100 valuation, will generate $43,513 in additional revenue and will add about $25 to the annual tax bill on a $90,000 home, council members said.

The new water rates will include a new base charge of $15 a month. Thomas said it was necessary to increase the water rates to help pay for a new pipeline that will bring treated water from the Brown County Water Improve-ment District and to make up for the loss of revenue when Zephyr stops buying treated water from Early.

If not for the new pipeline, Thomas said, the city would be paying for a new water treatment plant.

“It’s easy to sit up there and say ‘we need this and we need that,’” senior citizen Bill Corrigan said, urging the council to “tighten your belt buckle.”

Judy Coers, 80, told council members “the train’s coming and I’m about to get run over.”

“We’ve tried to improve the quality of life in the city of Early,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen a lot of things grow as we can afford it.”

Canda Rasberry, a real estate agent in Tootie Kelly’s office, said there are close to 40 houses on the market in Early. Houses cost less in Brownwood, Rasberry said, and “people aren’t trying to get into Early like they used to. All these little things do add up.

“When you look at retired people coming here, they won’t come here because they can go to Brownwood and Abilene and get more house for the money. We don’t have foreclosures but people aren’t coming into Early.”

Council member Charles Matlock said the council is making strides in efforts to keep expenses down and the effort to reduce expenses leaves the budget with about two weeks of operating expenses — far short of the 90 days recommended by auditors, Matlock said.