City faces tight budget
Houston County Courier
Getting the citizens of Crockett the biggest bang for their buck while the tax base has shrunk by $4 million is a challenge for the city’s leader-ship. The city of Crockett held its budget workshop on Friday, July 23, to discuss the upcoming 2011 budget. Like many cities across the country, Crockett is having to tighten its purse strings. “I truly can't remember a time when our city has faced a tighter budget,” said Mayor Wayne Mask. “On the expense side, as with last year, we have not budgeted for an employee pay increase. We plan to look at it midyear and see what financial condition we are in, and hopefully be able to make an adjustment at that time,” Mask said. An employee-related expense is the retirement program for city employees. “The retirement program for city employees is going up about 13% from last year,” the mayor explained. Furthermore, Mask said, “The city employees health and life insurance rates are increasing about 5% per employee, which translates to an extra $23,000 in next year's budget.” The city also faces steadily increasing costs for gasoline, oil and grease products, of which the city uses a great amount. Additionally, the city anticipates an increase of approximately 3.5% from the Water District where the city gets its water. “Those are just a few of the issues we are facing regarding our expenses. As with all cities, we are seeing increased expenses,” Mask said. On to the revenue side of the picture, the city of Crockett will build another five or six houses this year under the HOME program. Mask explained this is “a federal program that constructs new homes for residents that are living in substandard housing.” The city considers this a revenue project because the program involves matching funds, so the city only pays part of the cost. “Another issue is that our tax base has shrunk from $235 million to $231 million, the first real set back we've seen in the last several years,” Mask said. He continued, “This decreased tax base will translate into the city collecting a few less tax dollars.” The city council will be looking hard at all the fees the city currently charges, from miscellaneous permits to usage fees at the Civic Center/Ag Arena. “I’m not saying that it will not happen, but we are trying our best to avoid any increases to things such as water, sewer and garbage rates,” Mask said, “knowing full well that all of us have been impacted by the economic uncertainties, not just in our state, but in our country as a whole.” “I hate to paint such a bleak picture but with sales tax revenue down, as well as decreased hotel-motel tax dollars, it's a no fluff budget year once again,” Mask said. “I appreciate all of our city council members, our city employees, department heads, and especially City Adminis-trator Ron Duncan and City Secretary Mitzi Thompson for doing all they can to get as much bang for our buck in these hard economic times,” the mayor said. He continued, “We are cognizant of the fact that our residents are suffering and will do all we can to continue to hold costs down while attempting to provide the same quality city services our residents are used to.” The budget workshop was attended by members City Council members and staff, Police Chief Jimmy Fisher and Fire Chief Darrell Deckard. There were no guests present at the meeting.