Commending city employees as well as department heads, some Edinburg council members say they have approved a nearly perfect budget in spite of the current economic downturn.
The budget is “as perfect as you are going to get,” according to Gene Espinosa, who along with fellow council members, approved the city ordinance to adopt the annual budget at their regular meeting Sept. 15.
City officials approved the budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010. Officials heard that for the 15th consecutive year there will be no property tax rate increases. Taxes will remain at .63500 per $100 assessed valuation, according to the city.
“I was really commenting that despite the sign of the times, you know with the economy down and large projects still needing to be done … to be able to produce a budget, stay within our same tax rate, and be able to do some of these sizable projects is commendable,” Espinosa said.
“I think it says a lot for our employees and our department heads who realize that times are tough and we do need to buckle down. All of our departments showed commitments, not bringing any personnel in and really just requesting equipment they needed,” he said.
According to the city, there will be a five percent increase in employee health insurance due to an increase in health insurance claims, and an increase in funding of longevity for non-public safety employees which total in the area of $106,000, according to City Manager JJ Rodriguez.
The city is currently looking at major pieces of equipment, mostly for the fire department, including a 2010 1500 GTM pumper valued at $450,000, a brush truck at $45,000, 10 self-contained breathing apparatuses and a 6000 PSI breathing air compressor to provide safety to taxpayers, according to Rodriguez.
Increasing funding to the police department for additional personnel, vehicles and equipment is also lineated in the budget. The city is also increasing funding to the solid waste management department for equipment as part of an “extreme investment,” according to Rodriguez. The city needs to maximize space at the landfill facility by way of equipment, he said.
“Yes, we are investing in equipment heavily but I think the tradeoff will be when we realize a longer life for the landfill,” Rodriguez told council members.
The city is not increasing any public waste collection rates for residents. The last increase was Oct. 2004. There is a 5 percent increase in water and sewer rates, making it the first increase since Oct. 2007.
With the budget, Espinosa said residents will begin to see a continued influx of road projects in the city. Edinburg’s neighborhood paving program will continue, along with the rehabiliation of parks and sidewalk improvements.
Despite the benefits of a balanced budget, Espinosa said there is room for improvement.
“There always is. There is always room where you can find a little bit of money,” he said. “Is it a perfect budget? It’s probably as perfect as you are going to get. But you need to understand it’s a working document … that’s why we review the budget at mid-year and if there are funds left over in certain accounts we ask if we need to move them into something else.”