Killeen budget

The 2017 Killeen Budget

Killeen City Council members are coming to the stark realization the only way they can balance the 2017 budget is by making some serious cuts.

To this point, that’s something they’ve neither been both willing nor able to do.

On the heels of a meeting in which they voted down a proposed transportation utility fee that would have generated nearly $5 million annually, council members will host a public hearing Tuesday that is likely to bring out heated emotions — along with a second vote on the transportation utility fee.

 The city finds itself with at least a $7.2 million shortfall heading into the next fiscal year and has so far done precious little to remedy the situation.

In fact, in some ways, they’ve made it worse.

Two weeks ago, council members approved the purchase of 51 city vehicles — 39 for the police department — at a total cost of about $1.2 million. Meanwhile, they voted against raising the preliminary tax rate, technically locking the city in to the current rate instead of leaving open the option of additional property tax revenue.

The council did approve impact fees, targeting developers to pay for city infrastructure, but those won’t take effect in the current budget cycle. And last week the council voted to dissolve the city’s residential curbside recycling system — at a savings of about $280,000 — but that’s small potatoes compared to the amount needed to make ends meet.

The council has an opportunity to make a significant budget impact by outsourcing the city’s garbage service, but city staffers and several council members are resistant to the idea.

Representatives of Texas Disposal Systems last week pitched a plan that would involve taking over the city’s solid waste and recycling operations, including buying the city’s fleet of trash trucks, leasing the city’s transfer station, hiring the city’s solid waste employees and possibly instituting citywide recycling — for about the same rate now charged, or lower.

However, before the TDS representatives could give their presentation, City Attorney Kathy Davis and Auditor Amanda Wallace read statements encouraging the council to seek request for proposals when contracting out services, even though Texas law has public safety exemptions that would not require it in this case.

Wallace went further, providing cost estimates of how she perceived contracting out the trash service would negatively impact the solid waste and general funds.

No doubt, long-term economic impacts should be a consideration in any outsourcing decision. But at the very least, the company’s representatives deserved polite consideration of their proposal from the council and city staff. As such, it was unprofessional and disrespectful of Councilmen Juan Rivera and Jim Kilpatrick to refuse the company’s brochure when it was offered.

Contracting out garbage service has a serious up side. TDS would hire up to 100 city employees and take their salaries, benefits and insurance costs off the city’s ledger. The city would receive a cash infusion for the sale of its fleet of solid waste vehicles, plus Killeen would save annually on the maintenance, insurance and fuel costs associated with those vehicles.

For now, the outsourcing question is in limbo. But given the city’s budget problems, it’s imperative that the council consider it carefully.

Few budget-balancing options remain at this point. Either council members must approve significant spending cuts or dip into the city’s reserves — a strategy interim City Manager Ann Farris advised against Tuesday, despite calling for drawing down the balance by more than $7 million in her original budget proposal,

With the budget deadline looming, council members must act decisively to resolve the shortfall. They can’t continue to reject solutions like a small tax increase or transportation fee simply because they’re unpopular. Cutting programs, services and city jobs or draining the city’s reserves are equally unpopular options, but those are about all the council has left.

It’s time to put political considerations aside and just do what’s best for the city and its future.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

(7) comments

Richard North

My opinion is:The thread is now being pulled and seems to be unraveling. Money, power and greed.
My, my how easy it is to justify spending when it is not ones own money.
And how hard it is to stop the money flow when one has become accustom to that
income. It seems the excrement has struck the rotating oscillator. If there is a clandestine corrupt cause for all this one can only hope it is all brought to the light of day. If it turns out to be merely a case of fecklessness, it still is a cause to consider better options than the status quo, the people who live here and pay taxes deserve better. A city can't tax it's way into solvency when it is hemorrhaging money, nor can it build enough cookie cutters homes,walmarts, restaurants and dealerships to sustain this region. This city need industry, infrastructure and organized leaders.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
Are you people willing to let this city continue to squander the funds that belong to this city? Ms. Davis gave you the perfect reason for asking that she 'Name the past and current city administrators in the letter she wrote to the Texas Attorney General.
The city Charter says that this city is a council – manager form of government. No one else is supposed to have any control over the functioning of this city.
When Ms. Davis, representing this city, said in a written document to the Attorney General's office representing this city, and I quote, 'The office of City Attorney Kathy Davis, representing the city’s 'top management, argued administrators' didn’t have to disclose the documents to the public because the papers fell under an exemption to the state’s public disclosure law.' Therein she alluded to someone other than the council and city manager was in control of this city. Who. Who are these individuals, the city administrators that have a hand in the 'management' and who 'control this city'.
And as for the 'retired' city manager, Mr. Morrison, I personally think that his actions as city manager were criminal. He not only 'lied to this council and the citizens of this city, but sought to manipulate, for other means, the funds of this city and the citizens of this city.
Where does the city attorney, Ms. Kathy Davis stand on this? Where does the chief of Police, Mr Baldwin stand on this. Somebody should be absolutely 'Pee Owed' about the fact that umpteen millions of this city's funds 'have disappeared. Where did they go???
And as to Ms. Farris and the job she has completed for this city, well I'll just say that 'In my opinion, she has done more harm to this city when she placed it before the council and, in essence, 'you the council can figure it out' and left it at that.
I tentatively agree that 'something has got to be done'. As a suggestion, maybe this council can move on everything else but the solid and recycle service and don't include any of these charges anywhere in the budget. That way the budget can go forward with signatures thus avoiding the end of budget dates. Then it will the council time to study the proposals put forth by the Texas Disposal Systems.
To my of thinking, the city staff and 'several of the council persons' have been a drag on searching for a result to this city's dilemma, but that is personal opinion.
One of the 3% who voted.

Realist10

I agree with Eliza; Administration's (Farris, Stu, Wallace, Morrison, Briggs, Marty, Davis, Baldwin.) the list goes on was not a matter of incompetence it is a matter of negligence to the tax payer.

The City Council owes the citizens a forensic audit and to get ride of the waste.

DawgDave

[thumbup]

don76550

If you cannot change the mind of the incompetent irresponsible spenders on the council, then change the council. Recall them

Eliza

[thumbup]

Eliza

What an incompetent bunch that's been working for the city and has been running the city and working for the city and running the city .

But then again ,some seem to know what they were doing when it came to the missing Millions taken from the Tax Payers.

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