After one year at the helm of Killeen, City Manager Glenn Morrison submitted a bare-bones budget plan for fiscal year 2013-2014, which begins in October.
“There’s not a lot of flash in it,” Morrison said Thursday, from his office at City Hall. “Essential services are what we are focusing on.”
With $235.8 million in overall spending planned for the year, Morrison estimated $8 million less in expenses next year than in fiscal year 2012-2013. The budget also calls for no property tax increase.
The CEO of the city hopes heightened services, programs and projects in the coming years will overshadow some of the rocky patches Killeen has moved through in the past few years.
Shortly after Morrison became interim city manager in 2011, the administration faced the removal of five city council members through a voter-backed recall.
In October, police investigators uncovered widespread fraud and theft at the city’s motor pool, which led to two major lawsuits filed by fired employees.
“Every year you have challenges and opportunities,” Morrison said.
“You can’t predict everything because you don’t know exactly what might happen, but you have to be confident enough and strong enough as an organization to act and react to anything that comes your way — both challenges and opportunities.”
The city takes a “cautious” approach to budgeting, amid the uncertainty surrounding funding at Fort Hood, Killeen’s neighboring $25 billion economic engine, Morrison said.
“We need to be aware of what is happening at Fort Hood. The decisions that are being made federally will obviously affect us,” Morrison said.
“We don’t want to go too far out there with capital improvements and get ourselves in a position where we can’t afford it.”
One example of the city’s cautious approach is the estimated $8.4 million Trimmier Road widening project, which would add a new lane to Trimmier Road between Jasper Drive and Elms Road. The council approved the $774,000 design cost for the project in March; however, if troop levels change dramatically in the coming years, the council would have the option to hold the project.
“Some of that could be wait and see,” Morrison said.
Although it was not written into Morrison’s budget plan, the council could adopt a citywide compulsory recycling program, more closely aligned with other cities its size.
The estimated $4.6 million project would require purchasing 46,000 recycling carts — one for each Killeen household — and seven recycling trucks.
Of the more than 500 users who participated in the Daily Herald’s online poll in June, 57 percent favored instituting mandatory citywide recycling.
“Citywide recycling might be that new big program that citizens might see (in fiscal year 2013-2014),” Morrison said.
The Temple Landfill, where Killeen and cities from seven other Texas counties haul their trash, has a life expectancy of about 15 more years, Morrison said.
“If it turns out to be this year or next year, we have to make some decisions,” he said.
“Reshaping solid waste services is an opportunity that we have.”
If the council approves the recycling program and estimated $2.50 fee hike, it would not start on Oct. 1, he said. The city would phase the new program in, with the first bins potentially going out in early 2014.
“We just couldn’t physically do that all in one fell swoop,” Morrison said.
Morrison’s budget proposal suggests no change in property tax rates nor hikes in fees for general services, such as solid waste and water fees.
The budget draft does propose increasing user fees, which only affect people who use the service.
The fee hikes would include green fees at the Stonetree Golf Course and rental fees at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
“We feel we have such a product in that golf course that there could be a fee adjustment,” Morrison said.
He said the city is considering a $1 or $2 green fee increase. In previous meetings, the council has discussed raising fees only for nonresident golfers, which is an option.
“As we continue to discuss it, it could look totally different (than) what rates look like,” Morrison said.
He said the Killeen Civic and Conference Center is booked solid for all of fiscal year 2013-2014, so fee hikes for rentals are not likely to have an effect until fiscal year 2014-2015.
The bar service, however, could see a bump in prices, Morrison said.
Morrison’s draft suggests at least 23 full-time employees added to city staff in the coming year, including a new city executive. The total cost of new hiring would be more than $1.6 million.
Council members will consider a new executive director of community services, a position that will earn between $78,300 and $128,472 a year.
The position, once held by Morrison, was removed in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
“We are growing at such a pace that we feel like it is the appropriate time to bring it back,” he said.
The new executive will help coordinate “the quality of life” services at the city, including the golf course, library and public parks, Morrison said.
The executive also will help coordinate operations between the Killeen Arts & Activities Center and the KCCC.
“We are going to need some people in place that can do some essential planning for us and prepare us for the future,” Morrison said.
Two new code enforcement officers are included in the budget draft; however, no new police officers.
Public safety often takes high priority in the public interest. Last year, the council approved 12 new police officers.
Morrison’s plans for fiscal year 2013-2014 show an ending fund balance of $19,479,834, which is 26.14 percent of the general fund. The number is well above the council’s unwritten rule of keeping the fund balance between 22 percent and 25 percent of the general fund.
Morrison said the healthy fund balance would allow the council to add items such as more police officers, or purchase things through budget amendments in the middle of the year.
“This (fund balance) puts us in a very good position,” Morrison said.
“Any project that the council deems necessary we would add be able to add it to the budget.”