Kyle budget includes repairs & rate hikes

A $3.54 increase in the average monthly wastewater bill could be on the horizon for Kyle utility customers as city leaders look to fund future infrastructure improvements next fiscal year.   

Despite a rise in wastewater rates, Kyle’s proposed $85 million budget is not expected to alter the current $.5416 per $100 valuation property tax rate, said City Manager Scott Sellers during a July 28 budget workshop.

Kyle’s proposed wastewater rate increase, currently set at 10 percent for all customer classes, is expected to help front nearly $19.2 million in wastewater upgrades in Fiscal Year 2019. Included in the list are wastewater line improvements in Plum Creek, Elliot Branch, Bunton Creek and in the south side of town.

Sellers said the increases will primarily address $9.5 million in proposed new debt for expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Kyle officials seek to increase the capacity of its WWTP from 3.5 to 4.5 million gallons per day to accommodate new development. Current estimates have the total cost of the expansion, including engineering and construction, to be anywhere from $19 million to $20 million.

Recent changes in the planning phase for the plant has delayed the project by six to nine months, said Leon Barba, Kyle city engineer. City officials estimate completing the expansion by the first quarter of 2019, but the plant might not be operational at the new capacity until late 2020.

Sellers said the city has worked to save up as much as possible for the new plant, which has totaled $8.5 million. Contributions from outside developers, which has totaled $2.68 million, has also gone toward limiting the amount of new debt the city looks to take on.

However, Kyle is slated to take a $9.5 million, 20-year certificate of obligation (CO) bond to cover the remainder of the project.

Other primary expenses planned for FY 2019 include various road improvement projects, including a combined $9 million toward the long-awaited reconstruction of Burleson Street and Lehman Road.

The city plans to spend $2.5 million on reconstruction of Old Stagecoach Road from Center Street to FM 2770, along with $800,000 on improvements to Kyle Crossing. The city had already included $500,000 for its micro surfacing project on a handful of Kyle streets.

All told, the city plans to spend roughly $45.4 million in capital improvements projects in FY 2019. Additionally, the city’s budget will encompass 16 new full-time equivalent positions totaling just over $770,000, nine of which will be paid for by the general fund.

Those new positions include two new police telecommunications personnel and an additional records compliance specialist. Sellers said the latter position is a pressing need based on state legislation increasing the amount of records to be kept by department.

“It’s not just unique for us. Police departments are being hammered by public information requests,” Sellers said. “We’re not able to keep up at this point. This is to allow us some relief.”

Alex Villalobos, Kyle City Council member, was concerned about the number of police vehicles in the fleet and whether the department had enough.

Jeff Barnett, Kyle police chief, said the city is at the threshold of having just enough cruisers for its 52 sworn officers on duty. Kyle plans to spend $1.3 million for new equipment and vehicles, with just over $500,000 going toward road construction equipment.

In 2017, Kyle city leaders approved an agreement with Enterprise to replace some of its aging fleet.  However, James Earp, Kyle assistant city manager, said a fire at the Enterprise production plant has delayed the replacement process. The replacement vehicles will also not add to the city’s number of cruisers on the street, Earp said. Kyle’s current proposed budget does not include a new police cruiser.

Council members also differed on $50,000 toward city manager expenses in the next fiscal year, which could be introduced at a later meeting. Travis Mitchell, Kyle mayor, said  the money could be allocated for hiring a lobbying firm to assist with the pursuit of federal dollars.

Mitchell said the city has been “missing out” on those opportuniites due to a lack of lobbying. Mitchell sought take $50,000 from a city program to help cover the city council’s proposed lobbying efforts. The program proposed to be decreased is “First Year on Us” program, which helps with a start-up small business with its first year of city property taxes.

Shane Arabie, Kyle City Council member, believed the plan should be moved into the city manager’s budget and not city council budget, as they operate on volunteer basis only.

Arabie said he wanted to see details of the lobbying plan before making a decision. Villalobos also wanted to know the cost benefit behind that plan.

“Once I see those, I will make a better decision,” Villalobos said.

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