Trying To Deconstruct The Bellaire City Budget

UPDATE: The City of Bellaire Budget FY2022 was adopted on September 20, 2021. Interpreting the budget doesn’t get any easier.  Please take some time to review these pertinent items.  Better yet, grab a cup of coffee and review the Adopted Budget:   

FY2022 COB Adopted Budget
Consolidated Financial Statement
Anticipated Revenue of $60 million per the Consolidated Financial Statement, including grants totaling over $18 million.  See the list of grant monies below under Capital Improvement Fund.

For the General Fund:

    • Estimated revenue from property taxes increased by $718,382, with about half of that from new additions to the tax base.  Tax rate remains $ 0.4473 per $100.
    • Anticpated revenues of $22,092,450, not including $7,463,000 in property taxes moved to the Debt Fund
    • Anticipated expenditures of $22,974,494.
    • Step pay increases rather than merit-based for City staff .
    • Some City Fees will increase.

For the Enterprise Fund:

    • Anticipated in revenues of $10,409,221.
    • Anticpated expenditures of $10,358,619.
    • Includes a transfer to General Fund of $1,073,000.
    • Includes a transfer to Debt Service Fund of $2,133,946.
    • We may see an increase in water bills.

In essence, residents’ water bills will increase in order to help pay down the bonded debt service and to fund pay increases for City staff.  

For the Debt Service Fund – Outstanding general obligation bonds backed by taxes.  In September 2021 the debt will be $110.8 million, assuming the $6 million in approved bonds are sold for street and drainage projects.  This year’s debt service of $9.6 million is the equivalent of almost half our property tax revenue.

    • Anticipated property tax revenue $22.1 million.
    • Expenditure for Debt Service of $9,640,243. 
    • 78% paid by  property tax revenue of $7,463,000, 22%. $2,133,946, paid from the Enterprise Fund.  
    • Debt service cost is equivalent to 43% of the property tax revenue.

Capital Improvement Fund 

  • Capital Grant Fund (funded with grant proceeds and non-Metro interlocal fundsProjects in the Grant Fund are funded with grant proceeds and interlocal funding from various entities. $16,277,736 Budgeted project expenditures
    • $10,000,000 Regional drainage projects
    • $4,347,736    Streets (including drainage improvements)
    • $1,930,000   Traffic signalization and mobility improvements
  • The restroom in Mulberry Park that was slated to be paid by donations is now scheduled to be paid for by the City, budgeted at $150,000 but may bounce back up to $250K.  Also listed is another $250K for a parking lot for the Park. 
  • Estimated cost to redo Evergreen Park is up to $5.3 million.  
  • The $2 million dollar dog pound remains on the ‘future’ list; the average number of dogs picked up in the City over the last five years is 3 to 4 per month.  Find information for the past 5 years here.

Original article from August 11, 2021: Ever try to find your way through a maze?  Watch a few hours of a budget presentation, it’s similar.  A plethora of charts, graphs, and spreadsheets.  PowerPoint presentations and lots of numbers.  And yet I’m still trying to find one simple number – how much new revenue is anticipated FY2022.     

Property tax is clear, about $21.9 million, but the rest is hazy.  METRO, donations, sales tax, revenues from our water bills, fees and fines, etc.  Apparently those numbers will be available when the final budget is presented.       

Property taxes FY2022 should provide about $850K in additional revenue to the City. 

  • Bellaire’s bonded debt as of 9/30/2021 will be $110.8 million, including $6 million of unissued bonds.
  • Revenue from FY2021 property tax at the current .4473 tax rate is expected to be around $21.9 million.
  • Our FY2022 debt payment, including principal and interest, is $9.64 million, an amount equal to 44% of the property tax revenue. Most of the payment will be from property taxes, the balance from the Enterprise Fund (Public Works revenues).

Speaking of bonded debt, on Monday, August 9, 2021, members of the Parks and Recreation Board made a budget presentation to City Council.  They focused on redevelopment of Evergreen Pool and Park. Find the Master Plan Concept here. The estimated cost in 2015 was $4.6 million, no updated costs were presented.  No specific defects in the pool or park were discussed other than that it is ‘old’. 

Patrons for the Parks claim that Bellaire residents want to spend those millions on Evergreen Pool and Park. Donations for the project were solicited early on.  After a $40K expenditure for the installation of a zipline about $160K is available.

At Monday’s meeting one speaker suggested a bond issue.  Another did not seem to be aware that $5 million dollars in City bonds were used for construction of Evelyn’s Park.  

Not mentioned were the added costs for debt service and maintenance for these additions.  The City pays for all park maintenance and repairs, including Evelyn’s Park, which is now adding a Phase II. 

Accessibility for some residents at Evergreen Pool was referenced.  It might be helpful for the Parks and Recreation Board and/or Patrons for Bellaire Parks to review the ADA Evaluation performed in 2018.  What defects were discovered at Evergreen Pool and Park, and have any measures been undertaken to correct them?

Of Interest: Per HCAD there are over 1700 private pools in Bellaire.  

Here’s a snapshot of revenues, expenses, and attendance for our pool facilities

Parks Board members also promoted the long proposed $250K bathroom for Mulberry Park, originally to be financed by donations.  But those donations have not materialized either, and now the Council is asked to consider approving City funds for the project

One spot of good news!  The $6 million dollar Dog Pound is now estimated to only cost $2 million.  That item is listed on page 143 of the Capital Improvement Plan FY2022.

At the August 16, 2021, meeting the focus seemed to be on a conservative fiscal policy.  One Councilmember’s suggestion was that some vacant City staff positions might be combined or eliminated, with the savings to be moved to a savings account for debt service and eventually for a pay-as-we-go program for public works.  A list of current City staff positions and salaries can be found here.  You may find some surprises.  Additional background and job descriptions can be found below.

The final decision was to proceed to analyse the current budget and suggest changes or cuts.  One important issue is the User Fee Schedule.  What should change, how would it impact residents.  What should the City subsidize and what might see an increase in charges.  Like our water bills.  That Schedule can also be found below, along with the Mayor’s thoughts on the study.  

Salaries and raises will be discussed, as well as the Fee Study.  Among thje many fees listed, costs for water, wastewater, and solid waste may be going up.

Regarding the Community Rating System program, part of the National Flood Insurance Program, as of October 1, 2021, Bellaire residents will lose the 15% discount on flood insurance for at least 6 months. The discount was lost due to noted deficiencies by FEMA associated with maintenance and production of records and deficiencies in the processes within the Development Services Department.  FEMA will be also change their rating criteria for rates.  Rates will be based on individual properties rather than just the property location in the flood zone. Development Services Director ChaVonne Sampson has resigned.

Watch the August 9, 2021, meeting here.
Watch the August 10, 2021, Budget Session 1 here.
Watch the August 16, 2021, meeting including Budget Session 2 here.
Watch the August 23, 2021, Budget Session 3 here.
Watch the August 30, 2021, Budget Session 4 here.

Links to the meetings include the Agendas, with numerous PowerPoint presentations

Consolidated Financial Schedule FY2021

This document provides a quick overview of the sources for Revenues and Expenditures for the City of Bellaire.  The Schedule for FY2022 will be available after 9/30/2021.  There are various sources of revenue and five (5) main funds:

  • General Fund – City’s basic services, IT, Police & Fire, parks & recreation, facilities, Library, and streets division of Public Works
  • Enterprise Fund – City’s water, wastewater, and solid waste services
  • Special Revenue Fund – Contributions and donations, public service and education
  • Debt Service Fund – Used to account for Debt Service principal and interest payments. Outstanding debt as of 9/30/2021 will be $110.8 million, which does not include an additional $6 million in bonds that have not yet been issued.  Mostly funded by property tax revenue.   Debt Service Fund Report from current proposed budget.
  • Capital Improvement Funds, which includes sub-funds:
  1. Vehicle and Equipment Replacement Fund – self explanatory
  2. Capital Improvement Fund – General Fund Cash Projects & Enterprise Fund Cash Projects – principally funded by transfers from the General Fund and the Enterprise Fund
  3. Capital Bond Fund – The Capital Bond Fund is funded by bond proceeds, current balance is $12,839,610.  There is an additional $6 million in bonds not yet issued.
  4. METRO Fund – funded by METRO Mobility funds received by the City from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO)
  5. Grant Fund – funded by grant and non-Metro interlocal agreement proceeds
  6. Five-Year Capital Improvement Fund/Future Projects FY2022-2026 – Capital projects are often multi-year projects

The proposals FY2022 budget include adding a 2nd EMS Unit for peak time, 12 hours a day, at an annual cost of $270K. According to the fee study our EMS service does not pay for itself now. 

Consolidated Annual Financial Report FY2020 ended 9/30/2020.  Background and statistics.  FY2021 Report will be prepared after 9/30/2021.

City of Bellaire Active Positions and Salaries – 2021
Find the entire Public Information Request list here, including job descriptions.  This information was provided in response to a request for public information.

Of note, the list for the Police Department contains 3 Corporals, 3 Lieutenants, 4 Sergeants, 3 Detectives plus one rotating Detective, and 12 Communications Officers.  Also 24 Police Officers.  The total for personnel in the Police Department if all positions listed are filled is 60. 

Curiously, the list for the Fire Department includes 10 part time EMTs and only 1 full time EMT.  There were no residential fires in Bellaire in 2021.

Report on Cost of Services (User Fee) Study – CITY OF BELLAIRE, TEXAS – DRAFT  Sorry, I was unable to find final version of the Fee Study on the City website, however this Draft version is available.  Fees may be raised in various City Departments.  Water, wastewater, and solid waste costs to residents may rise.

Mayor Friedberg’s thoughts on the recent Fee Study: Informed Decision Making on Taxpayer Subsidies

Email comments to the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, and request that they be forwarded.

About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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