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Watkins defends Bryan's budget

Watkins defends Bryan's budget

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He says city can cover difference between revenues and expenses

"We have a very good city, but it's disturbing when we have information that's provided that does not give a true reflection of what our city is all about."

Paul Madison

Councilman

By CASSIE SMITH

cassie.smith@theeagle.com

Bryan City Manager David Watkins on Tuesday tried to set the record straight regarding the city's finances.

Watkins told the City Council during a workshop presentation about the city's budget that he hears chatter about the city spending more money than it brings in. But, Watkins said, that simply isn't the case.

"There's always a lot of talk about if the city says it collected $200 million, but spent $220 million, does that mean they overspent $20 million?" Watkins said. "That gets confusing unless you're in municipal government."

Watkins said the city has a healthy reserve fund to make up the difference between revenues and expenses. The city adds to its reserve fund annually, he said.

In fiscal year 2008, he said, the city collected $335 million in revenues and had $359 million in expenses, but kept the budget balanced because of the reserve fund.

For fiscal year 2010, Watkins said, the city is projecting about $313 in revenues and $350 million in expenses. But again, he said, the reserve fund will keep the city financially stable.

Watkins said he's also heard concerns that the city is adding personnel when it can't afford a larger payroll.

In 2007, the city had 641 employees, not including BTU's staff. Today, the number of city employees is 679, Watkins said. Nine positions were eliminated for the fiscal year 2010 budget. Out of the additional 38 employees, Watkins said, 25 positions were for the police and fire departments.

And nine positions were added to the city's right-of-way mowing crew, because officials discovered it was more cost-effective than contracting the service out, as the city had been doing, he said.

"We've been holding the line on expenses, believe me," Watkins said.

Councilman Paul Madison said the city's recent "high quality" bond rating from Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investor Services illustrates the city's prudent fiscal policies.

"We have a very good city, but it's disturbing when we have information that's provided that does not give a true reflection of what our city is all about," Madison said.

Councilwoman Ann Horton said she is disturbed that in the past, the city had not been using the reserve fund wisely.

"I think we are doing a much better job now. When we have the funds, we fix the street. When we have the funds, we fix the drainage. When we have the funds, we fix the capital improvements that need to be done," Horton said, noting that taxpayers' money wasn't serving the needs of the city while in the bank.

Mayor Mark Conlee said the city has put off enough maintenance projects in the past that it could double taxes for the next 20 years and not catch up.

"To build up huge bank accounts with tax money makes absolutely no sense to me," he said, adding the city needed every penny it could get for infrastructure improvements and for emergency responders.

Also at the meeting, the City Council:

* Changed the name of Gabbard Road to North Traditions Drive. The ordinance will require a second reading at a future council meeting. The almost-1,900-foot street between F.M. 2818 and North Traditions Drive needed its name changed to ensure consistency, city staff said. When driving southwest from F.M. 2818 on Gabbard Road, the street seamlessly becomes North Traditions Drive. City staff members indicated that distinct street names should be assigned only to segments that are clearly distinguishable from one another. Gabbard Road has existed for more than 30 years; however, it was not until recently that North Traditions Drive was extended to connect to it.

* Awarded a contract worth more than $568,000 to Knife River Corp. for Texas 30 improvements associated with the Twin Oaks Landfill. The project includes widening the highway adjacent to the landfill to provide for safer entrances and exits from the facility.

* Approved the second and final reading of an ordinance that adds the mayor as a non-voting member of the BTU board of directors.

The seven-member BTU panel unanimously approved of the idea at its last meeting. Officials said the move will better enable the City Council and the BTU board to communicate and interact on a regular basis.

* Approved the second and final reading of midnight-to-5 a.m. juvenile curfew hours. The curfew was established in 2007. From 2006 through 2009, police officers said, juvenile crime data decreased 65 percent. The renewal of the ordinance came after a required three-year review.

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