By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
When the city of Killeen kicks off its budget season in March, departments and outside agencies will vie for a part of the millions the city allots each year for its operations.
During the last budget season, the City Council approved a $188 million budget after a nearly seven-month process that started with each department and outside agency considering their past expenditures and looking toward the next year's.
While department heads spend hours filling out city-printed budget sheets, outside agencies like the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, Hill Country Transit and the Killeen Area Heritage Association, consider their own budgets and create proposals that the City Council hears individually. The proposals from the outside agencies include how money was allocated in the prior fiscal year and projections for the current fiscal year.
Council members then decide which areas to trim, which items require more money and which ones can be cut altogether.
Paring it down
According to a budget presentation from an Aug. 4 budget workshop – one that fell during a budget season City Manager Connie Green called "the most difficult endeavor" since the 1990s – the council cut about $11,500 from the $1.5 million requested by the Chamber of Commerce and the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and denied funding to the Clements Boys and Girls Club ($160,000), Families in Crisis ($18,702) and United Service Organizations ($5,000).
Requested funding was granted in full for Bell County Communications, the Bell County Public Health District, Hill Country Transit, The Killeen Area Heritage Association, Killeen Sister Cities, Inc., Killeen Volunteers, Inc. and the Tax Appraisal District of Bell County.
Barbara Gonzales, director of finance for Killeen, said the City Council makes such decisions based on the way the economy looks, the amount of money the city has and must sometimes deny funding because agencies request money for services the city typically does not fund.
Gonzales said the past year was particularly difficult for outside agencies.
"They've basically had to live with the same operations (as last year)," she said.
While some struggled with no city funding, the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce and the Killeen Economic Development Corporation were given a total of $1,508,678, the largest allotment of all 11 outside agencies.
GKCC's request for funds
According to information obtained from the city of Killeen, the chamber's total proposed budget for the current fiscal year was $755,333. Along with the $654,000 requested from Killeen, the chamber's budget also includes $12,500 from the city of Harker Heights and $88,833 from other entities, which includes contributions from the chamber's Young Professionals group and interest income earned and $86,533 carried over from fiscal year 2008-09.
The GKCC's proposed budget given to the city further breaks down how the money will be spent. It includes items like $325,250 for salaries and wages and $9,000 to help promote Fort Hood growth and $24,500 to promote higher education.
The council recommended giving the GKCC $643,342 for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
Some cuts made
Despite being the recipient of the biggest chunk of the city's outside agency funding, the GKCC's 2009-10 proposed budget showed funding cuts. The chamber cut almost $3,000 from its Fort Hood Growth project, compared to what it spent in 2008-09; nearly $7,000 from its Higher Education fund; $18,000 in funds for the regional airport; about $13,000 from its retail strategy fund and $500 from its dedicated moneys to special projects like its Web site. The community image fund was the only one to which money was added – an increase of $25,000 to go toward branding and recruiting new residents for the city, according to the proposed budget.
Jack Wade, vice president of the GKCC, said that what is left over after those cuts goes mainly toward economic development projects that benefit Texas A&M University-Central Texas, the Fort Hood Sustainability Project and Killeen's long-term vision for downtown revitalization.
"We also use the money for marketing," said John Crutchfield, GKCC president who also serves as the secretary for the KEDC and the Killeen Industrial Foundation, both appointments set forth by the organization's charter. "The new commerce Web site, we're preparing an application to enroll in the certified retirement cities program … those kinds of things."
Though the city only partially funds all outside agencies, many are still asked by council members to present quarterly financial reports. Gonzales said the GKCC routinely presents its quarterly use of city-allotted money at City Council meetings.
The Herald requested copies of the quarterly reports from the chamber to further examine how the chamber spends city of Killeen money, and the GKCC is in the process of fulfilling the Freedom of Information Act request.
The 2010-11 fiscal year budget season will begin in early March when budget request worksheets are distributed to each of the city's department heads.
Contact Hailey Persinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.