By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen residents were invited to share their questions and concerns about the city's 2012-13 budget at a public forum Wednesday night.
About 18 people attended the forum, including four members of the City Council and Mayor Dan Corbin. Those in attendance received an overview of the city's previous budget, as well as plans and priorities for the next one from Glenn Morrison, the interim city manager.
"We are in the very infant stages of budget development," said Morrison, who will likely be hired as Killeen's next city manager.
Morrison reviewed the 2011-12 budget, which featured $189 million in revenues, and $258 million in budgeted expenditures, with the bulk of those funds being used for personnel costs and capital improvement projects.
Moving forward, Morrison said, the city has laid out goals and guidelines for developing the new budget, which will help the city continue to offer services, efficiently manage expenses and plan for the demands of a growing city.
"These are parameters we think are important as we prepare to deliver (the budget) July 10," said Morrison.
One of the goals is maintaining the city's current property tax rate, which is 74.28 cents per $100 of property value.
"We want to try and maintain and improve services within that same tax rate," said Morrison.
During the public input portion of the meeting, some residents asked for more city funding, and others cautioned the council against spending too much.
Wallace Vernon attended the meeting as a representative of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas, and asked the city to consider contributing $140,000 to help run the club's programs at seven middle schools within the city.
"We got an $80,000 grant from the city in 2008," said Vernon, whose organization served an average of 739 kids each day through the programs. "Since then, we haven't gotten anything from the city."
Other residents, like Dan Kott, implored the city to watch its spending and consider ending unnecessary programs.
"Look at the things you are spending money on," said Kott, who suggested ending programs such as the city's "movie in the park" events to save money. "If you need to cut the budget, you have to cut somewhere."
James Ralston's comments echoed Kott's. He pointed to the possibility of cuts to troop levels at Fort Hood as a potential economic blow to the city, and asked that the budget be prepared with such possibilities in mind.
"We need to make sure we can pay our own way," said Ralston. "We need to be careful how we spend our money or we're going to end up like Greece."
Jose Segarra, a newly elected council member who attended the forum, said he understood the public's calls to spend cautiously.
"I think people felt that the previous council was spending too much money," said Segarra. "We have to make sure we are acting responsibly with the city's money, and that's something that will be very high on the totem pole as (the council) considers this budget."
Wednesday's meeting was the second budget forum the city has held this year. Morrison is expected to deliver a budget to the council July 10, and the council is set to vote on that budget Sept. 11, after a series of meetings and public hearings.
Contact Chris McGuinness at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.
Those interested in providing feedback, questions and comments about the city's 2012-13 budget can call (254) 501-7600, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.