Students aren’t the only ones being equipped with the latest in technology to conduct their business.
At a budget workshop Thursday, the Bridgeport City Council approved the $4,086 purchase of iPads for its five members, mayor, city secretary and city administrator.
The cost includes purchasing a device for the city attorney, however the council agreed not to.
”We are spending, on average, $2,764 (annually) on agenda packets for the city council and city attorney,” City Secretary Jesica McEachern said. “The total costs for the iPads, hard cases and application to download the agenda … are about $454 a piece, and these are numbers from Apple. But I will try to get a lower price through Amazon, etc. The savings down the road will be there.”
Although the council was considering the purchase for fiscal year 2013, McEachern said there is enough money left in her budget this year to cover the expense.
“The election did not cost as much because I was able to split the cost with the school,” she said. “Also, I’m not splitting up our code update twice this year like I normally do. I’m just going to wait until December. We haven’t adopted enough ordinances to justify doing a midyear update. So in my budget right now, if y’all give me the authorization, I have the funds to get these without having to do the decision package.”
“If we’ve got the money, let’s do it now,” Councilman Scott Cheves said. The rest of the council agreed.
Other proposed expenses, their respective departments and costs include:
- patrol vehicle lease replacement, police, $10,000
- code enforcement base budget, police, $11,019
- zero-turn mower, parks and recreation, $13,800
- HP Designjet printer, city secretary/EDC/street/GIS/parks and recreation, $2,588
- records management software, city secretary, $24,000
- patrol vehicle, police, $24,000
- travel to training, library, $3,300
- maintenance worker, streets, $39,448
- student intern, library, $4,680
- Legistar legislative management software, city secretary, $28,000
“We’re going to have to take these packages and prioritize,” Mayor Keith McComis said.
To fund its $187,000 portion of the airport runway expansion project, the council also discussed shifting 3.53 cents of the tax rate from Interest and Sinking to debt service in Operations and Maintenance. The amount collected would be transferred to the airport fund.
“It utilizes some of the reserve fund out of I&S to pay our long-term obligations, without adjusting the tax rate,” City Administrator Brandon Emmons said. “It gives us the $182,000 transfer from the general (fund) to the airport (fund) to make the payment until we can sell that property to recoup the money. It’s like we’re borrowing from ourselves … only we’re not ‘borrowing.’ We are utilizing some reserves that will be replenished.”
In December of 2010, the city entered into a project participation agreement with Texas Department of Transportation Aviation to extend, overlay and mark the existing runway, replace the runway lights, update the airport layout plan and reimburse the city for land and easements.
The pre-construction work, including engineering work and land reimbursements, has been completed.
However, the city discovered it would not be reimbursed the estimated amount for 166 acres of necessary aviation easements and 86 acres of the runway protection zone. After the surveys were completed, it was determined that the city would only be reimbursed for 65 easement acres, in addition to the 86 protection zone acres, ultimately costing the city $187,000.
However, if the city withdrew from the agreement, it would have to reimburse TxDOT $337,000 for its investment in the pre-construction phase of the project.
“It actually makes more sense for us to spend $200,000 and get the project rather than backpay the engineering and be stuck with the land payments, stuck with nothing,” Emmons said.
At a meeting in February, the council decided to devise a plan of action when writing the upcoming budget.
A shift in operations from in-house labor to contract service and to repay a loan taken out to fund water plant repairs and improvements (as deemed necessary by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) caused an increase in operations for the water fund.
To compensate for a $36,000 deficit, city staff suggested adding a level to the rate structure and increasing those rates.
In the current rate structure, customers pay a $17.50 base fee that includes 3,000 gallons of water. If a customer uses between 3,001 and 10,000 gallons, the rate is $3.84 per gallon, and if they use 10,001 and above, the rate goes up to $4.42.
“But we have customers that use a lot more than 10,000 gallons a month,” Emmons said. “Rather than impacting the rates for a majority of our customers, we are looking at creating a new rate (75 cents higher) for ultra-high-use customers. That way it doesn’t have an impact on anybody that has a fixed income, rather on people who actively choose to use 50,000 or 100,000 gallons.”
But McComis pointed out that some commercial accounts such as the prison and school district don’t “actively choose” to be ultra-high users.
“I agree; we don’t want to tax a little old lady on a fixed income, but at the same time, I don’t want to run off any customers because they can’t afford the water,” McComis said. “We’re looking at about a $2,000 increase per month. It’s hard.”
Because it was a budget workshop, no decisions were made.
The next budget workshop is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, at City Hall.