Killeen City Council members listen as Killeen Finance Director Jonathan Locke discusses the 2017 mid-year budget and fiscal year 2018 preliminary budget Tuesday during the Killeen City Council workshop at the Killeen City Utilities Collections building.

During Killeen City Manager Ron Olson’s 2018 budget update at the City Council’s workshop Tuesday, a number of interesting trends rose to the surface of the 45-page presentation.

Olson’s update provided current revenue projections for the 2018 budget as well as a conglomeration of comparative demographic data, property valuation figures and city employee growth patterns.

While residents might have missed some of the juicier details in the presentation, the Herald has reviewed the city packet and identified a number of items of interest for the coming budget season.

Here’s the best of what we found.

FEWER EMPLOYEES?

While the number of full-time employees in all city departments has crept up over the last 10 years, the city actually has fewer per capita employees available to serve the growing population of Killeen.

The current number of full-time employees sits at 1,301, with the vast majority — 948 — grouped into the operational departments, including public safety. The number of full-time employees citywide in 2007 was 1,025.

Despite that growth, the city’s per capita rate for full-time employees has actually decreased from 9.9 to 8.9 over the last 10 years, potentially limiting the city’s ability to offer municipal services to its residents.

In his rewritten mission statement for the city, Olson highlighted quality municipal services as the centerpiece of the city enterprise.

“The purpose of a city is to provide municipal services and facilities that meet the needs of citizens,” Olson said Tuesday.

Olson’s presentation used 11 “benchmark cities” as a measuring stick for the city’s growth. By comparison, Killeen sits in the middle of the pack for employee per capita rates with Pasadena at the low end with 7.2 full-time employees per capita and McAllen at the top with 16.78.

In addition, personnel services expenditures — including salaries, retirement pay and overtime — has also increased dramatically over the past 10 years with 79 percent of general fund expenditures going to full-time employees. That number was only 69 percent in 2007.

Olson told the council Tuesday that figure still sits in a comfortable range, but he asked for the council to consider whether that number was something to limit or continue to increase in the future.

Another point of note, every city department’s per capita rate declined over the last 10 years except one: the public information department headed by Director of Public Information Hilary Shine.

The department currently staffs six full-time employees, compared to 3.5 in 2007.

PUBLIC SAFETY EXPLOSION

The percent of the city’s general fund devoted to police and fire has grown by 14 percent over the last 10 years, according to pie charts comparing city expenditures.

In 2007, public safety expenditures made up about 50 percent of the city’s operational fund, but that number currently sits at 64 percent — with more growth potentially on the way.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald April 11, Olson said he wasn’t necessarily concerned by the size of that figure but wanted to know if the growth was an intentional decision by past City Councils.

Despite that growth, cuts to police and fire overtime in September have led to outcries from firefighter advocacy groups after engines and ambulances have periodically been pulled from service due to the city’s recently instituted tiered overtime-reduction plan.

There are currently 384 budget full-time police employees and 237 budgeted full-time fire employees.

STAGNANT PROPERTY TAX

Despite the third-highest property tax rate in its benchmark group, Killeen has the second-lowest taxable value per household figure — an untenable trend tied to some policies the city cannot control.

One of the staggering figures hitting the city’s property tax figures are state and local exemptions that have nearly tripled over the last 10 years.

The city currently loses nearly $1 billion from its tax rolls each year due to exemptions.

The exemption with the biggest hit? The state disabled veteran homestead exemption, which alone took nearly $375 million off the tax rolls in 2016, according to Bell County Appraisal District records.

At the city’s 74.98 cents per taxable value assessed rate, that’s about $3.5 million in revenue due to homestead exemptions the city doesn’t receive — although the state cuts the city a check each year for around $800,000 to help defray costs.

Olson said the city is currently working with its lobbying group in Austin — The Schlueter Group — to push for more financial help from the state, but some council members asked what exactly the city’s $100,000 contract with the firm brings the city if the biggest drain on the city’s finances was not being addressed.

Exacerbating that trend is something the city can help control: The average value of a home in Killeen is approximately $113,000 — one of the lowest in the benchmark group.

Mayor Jose Segarra, a Realtor, said the city’s sea of affordable homes is tied to the low median income of Killeen residents, which actually sits in the middle of the city’s benchmark group at $47,763 per household.

Home diversity has become a hot-button issue for the council recently. After a discussion Tuesday on retaking platting review from the city’s planning and zoning commission and updating neighborhood design standards, Councilman Gregory Johnson sent an email to Olson and Segarra proposing a new ad hoc committee to rework the city’s design standards and boost home quality — and value — throughout the city.

“My core goal as a city Councilmember is to help ensure Killeen continues to be the ‘Place’ where people want to work, play and grow their families,” Johnson wrote.

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(1) comment

Pharon Enochs

The following comments are indeed the opinions of Pharon Enochs I noted with interest the Public Information Department has six employees. The police department also had several public information spokespersons. This seems like an over kill on public relations personnel in a city the size of Killeen. If I recall there was some concern regarding a former city manager promoting the city public relation spokesperson to a department head. This was at the time after the recall election and the city was in effect without an active city council. There was not sufficient number of council members to form a quorum in order to approve the promotion. This was reported by the finance director who was later fire by Baldwin, when he was chief of police, but that is another story which has been reported by the KDH rather well i believe. I am not wanting anyone to lose their job but this is one place I would look if in fact there is a need to reduce personnel. I wold look at the organization of the police department as well not so much as to reduce personnel but the organization and use of personnel. The department at one time has Public Service Officers who were alleged to be trained to work the communication office, the jail and take reports at the desk. I was told these positions were eliminated due to being unable to find personnel to fill the jobs I was also told this may have been because the salaries were cut from about $ 15.00 an hour to about $ 8.00 an hour During this big hay day there were four sergeants positions created to oversee the PSO program. A look at how these positions are used now wold be a starting point. If these positions are not needed they can be eliminated by attrition. What are these sergeants doing if they are still on duty ? Does the police department really need a full time SWAT with the shortage of personnel ? In the past it was a composite unit of person from various unit who were called out when needed this did effect overtime. So in effect if they are need what are they doing when they are effective being use as a SWAT . You can only do so much training when it becomes boring and it is just going through the motions. There are various other tasks which they could be doing like doing surveillance on selected location or gathering intelligence on suspected criminal activity by various means. It is again thinking out of the box. I am not sure if this would be effective as some might think their job was on the line but there might be some old retired police officers who would volunteer their time to do things like help with giving crime prevention talks/ classes. But I digress back to the topic at hand. I would want to look at the manning charts of the whole police department and be given a valid reason why each position is needed . Something like taking a roof off a hose and being able to look at it from above and get the whole picture. There have been "show boat " attempts to prevent crime in the city to in my opinion to appease the city council not so much to really effect the crime stats. Most of these have been abandoned. The burglary unit is one example it is had been effective like it was tasked to be it would still be a unit. The down town walking unit in my opinion was just to show officers down town in uniform to satisfy certain council members nothing more. Community policing is sometime that has proven to be effective but it cannot be done by a few people in the department but it has to be sold to the whole department that is effective. You know what I see now in the police department by most police officers ? I see almost a complete disregard of the public. Just watch patrol unit drive by with their over tinted windows roll up, probably their good time radio playing, and air conditioners or heaters on fully blast. Rarely if any do I see any contact with the public in general just when it is necessary. During the summer how many times have you seen a police officer stop and get out of their cars to shoot hoops with kids or just say hi to someone watering their grass. Back in the day officers who assigned permanent areas took pride in their areas . Most checked the hot sheets daily to see what major activity took place in their areas . They did their house watches noting anything which seemed out of place. Some even has hand signs with business owners when they pasted by the business so the business could signal if something was remiss and the officer could ask for assistance of another unit and take action. There is much more a patrol officer can do to develop rapport with the public. There are a lot of eyes and ears out there in the public. Some who are not sure if they should say something about suspicious activity in their neighborhoods because of the way they are talked to when reporting the information. Some do not know who to report it too. So if officers would treat every day as a mini affair maybe a difference could be made in the crime rate. Of course there are those who an officer can develop as a snitch who tells what is happening for self serving reasons. If a new officer is not aware how to do this perhaps he/she might seek guidance from a senior officer. My advance apology to officers who are doing some of the above mentioned things for those who are not try it you may like and get a real feeling of how the silent majority respects the police and renew you the officer we the public respect you and renew you of why you decided to be a police officer in the first place. Yes we the public believe Blue Lives Matter. God bless America , President Trump, all our military and police brothers and sisters and John Wayne where ever he may be.

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