Bellaire’s Municipal budgets are dry and hard to digest. Lots of verbiage, numbers, graphs, etc. It’s understandable that most residents don’t spend time reviewing them, and so may have missed the $6 million dollar Dog Pound that was added to the wish list of Future Capital Improvement Projects (CIP).
An overview of the proposed City of Bellaire Budget FY2021 was presented to Bellaire City Council and Bellaire residents at the July 22, 2020, Council meeting. The complete budget can be found at the end of this article.
The final budget workshop is scheduled for Monday, August 31, 2020, at 6 PM.
Anticipated revenues are down due to the health crisis and an expected decline in property taxes. Therefore anticipated expenditures have been reduced by about 2%. The remaining six million dollars of 2016 BBB bond funds are scheduled to be issued in 2021. Here are some highlights:
- No new revenues from property taxes
- A 2% reduction in general fund expenditures
- Maintaining current City service levels
- Some changes in staffing levels
- Another bond issue for 2022 – over $47 million. Our bonded debt would be around $150 million by 2025 (updated from $132 million in revised budget on 8/31/20). We just can’t seem to manage without more debt.
- With no future bond issue the City will still owe over $90 million in bonded debt.
- And a surprise, the last line is a $6 million dollar dog pound, slipped into the Capital Improvement Plan for Future Years. OK, it’s not in this year’s budget, but good grief!
Capital Improvement Projects are sometimes paid from cash funds, but more often from bond funds. Since another $40 or 50 million bond issue is on the horizon it appears that just about anything is up for grabs, as long as Bellaire voters approve those bonds!
I wrote this article about a year ago: If Bellaire Can Afford A $280,000 EMS Ambulance, Why Not A Ford Pickup? My contention in the article was that leasing a vehicle is more costly than purchasing it. Last year’s City Council ignored the issue and approved the plans to lease. Now that a leaner budget is required and the lease process was reviewed, it seems the City would have saved hundreds of thousands if the 13 leased vehicles had been purchased instead. Meanwhile the City will have to play catchup with our Vehicle Replacement Fund.
More review is required to deconstruct the 253 Budget pages presented at the July meeting. Plus the budget updates. My first impression is that we need deeper spending cuts, a more conservative fiscal policy, and concerted efforts to reduce our bonded debt. And to stop leasing vehicles and losing others to floods. The current budget continues to propose more debt and less savings. Is this a sustainable fiscal policy?
Residents are encouraged to email questions or concerns. I’d suggest emailing our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton. Email email@example.com and ask that your email be forwarded to the Mayor and members of City Council.
The first Budget Workshop is scheduled for Monday, August 10, 2020. Probably Telephonic.
The second Budget Workshop is scheduled for Monday, August 17, 2020. Probably Telephonic.
A third Budget Workshop is scheduled for Monday, August 31, 2020. Telephonic.
The fiscal year begins on October 1st, the new budget will be finalized and approved in September.
Below are several versions of the budget. The first contains only the budget, no verbiage and most of the charts, graphs, explanations, etc., have been removed. The next contains the entire proposed budget.
I’ll post a final version after the completion of the Budget Workshops and Council meetings.
FY2021 Proposed Budget – Only – 104 pgs
Find the July 22, 2020 City Council Meeting Video Here
Bellaire’s Debt is $116.4 million as of 6/30/2020 with another $6 million in bonds still to be issued, so think $120 million. One of the highest per capita debts in the state.