“All cylinders are burning,” he told the city commissioners.
The city is on the precipice of adopting a $641 million budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year — up from the $519 million budget approved for the current fiscal year — which, once approved, will be their largest budget to date.
The budget includes a $133 million general fund with a fund balance of $78.5 million. That represents about 220 days of working capital, more than the 140 days of working capital on reserve that is required by city policy.
For the next fiscal year, the city will also be funding more than 100 capital improvement projects totaling about $284 million.
Among those projects are the $83 million project to convert the Anzalduas International Bridge into a full-service commercial port of entry and the $45 million expansion of the Quinta Mazatlán Center for Urban Ecology.
They also have a project to expand Daffodil Avenue for $6.6 million and the construction of the North HUB for transit for $4.1 million. Additionally, there’s the construction of the new Parks Administration office on 23rd Street and 3 Mile Line for $3.1 million.
The city is also building a new fire station at Tres Lagos for $3.2 million and a firefighter training facility off State Highway 107 for $3.5 million. “That, we’re really happy about because it’s something that we’ve talked about for several years and we’re going to be able to do it,” Rodriguez said.
When working on the budget, Rodriguez said it can be complicated because every year, he has to figure out what the city commission wants as a body. “You’ve got seven people up there that are individual thinkers, they all have their own priorities,” he said. “A lot of them are the same — drainage is important, good streets are important — but every commissioner and the mayor has a different priority and my job is to get all of those thoughts and put this together.”
In addition to that, every year he tries to figure out whether they can do something for employees.
This year, the city recommended a 3% cost of living adjustment for their approximately 2,500 employees and, as part of their respective collective bargaining agreements, firefighters and police officers are getting a 4% increase.
“The issues that we’re dealing with here in this country and around the world … having to do with prices and inflation and supply chain issues and all of these buzzwords that everybody talks about, impacts us all,” Rodriguez said. “So there’s no way that I cannot think about employees when I’m putting this together.”
The city is also adding 32 employees including some part-time and seasonal employees.
This year, the city is also projecting more than $80 million in sales tax revenue with about $62.7 million going to the general fund and approximately $20 million going to the development corporation.
That’s up from the current fiscal year for which the city initially budgeted $51.9 million in sales tax going towards the general fund but is now projecting to finish with $61.4 million going towards the general fund.
The increase in sales tax revenue will also subsidize, in part, the city’s revenue from ad valorem taxes, also known as property taxes. That subsidy pushed down the tax rate by 19% for the upcoming fiscal year.
As a result, the city is proposing to lower the property tax rate from the current rate of $0.495600 per $100 of valuation to $0.479900 per $100 of valuation.
Overall, Rodriguez said the budget process was a positive one, with the city commissioners focused on improvements to infrastructure, beginning with drainage.
“I think we have a lot of discussions, a lot of debate, but it’s a very civil debate with our commissioners,” Rodriguez said, “and that’s because they know what’s important, certainly in their district and in the city as a whole.”
He credited the city staff for being crucial in preparing the budget by providing the numbers he needs to work with but also making things happen in the field.
“We have a great budget; this community has a lot to be proud of,” Rodriguez said. “We’re just very blessed to have the staff that we do.”
BY BERENICE GARCIA
THE MONITOR STAFF WRITER