Sugar Land, Texas – City Council recently approved more than $1.5 million in reductions to the fiscal year 2018 budget, cuts needed to address lower than budgeted sales tax – particularly in the oil and gas related business sectors – and property tax revenues.
The budget amendment focused on prioritizing “needs” versus “wants” in an effort to minimize the impact to the city’s core services. Identified items were selected based on their recurring nature, supporting the city’s financial resiliency and balanced budget.
Reductions include the elimination of three full-time positions; a reduction in merit-based salary increases; elimination of the printing and mailing of the quarterly newsletter, Sugar Land Today, and the city calendar; reductions in street sweeping, mulching and fertilizing of bed plantings in roadway medians, and tractor mowing along roadways; cancellation of the city-funded New Years’ Eve and Star Spangled Spectacular events; reduction of services in parks and restructuring the senior holiday gala event; and others. Based on widespread community input, however, City Manager Allen Bogard recommended removing the closure of the city pool from recommended budget cuts.
“We heard from the community, and we listened,” said Bogard. “The pool will remain open, and repairs and operations will be funded through the elimination of a third full-time position. We appreciate the Sugar Land Sharks and users of the pool participating in this public process and sharing what this amenity means to them, and we look forward to continuing to work together as we keep the pool open. Additionally, we recognize many of these cuts impact well-loved items such as the Star Spangled Spectacular, and we will be working in the coming weeks and months to determine whether or not there are any feasible alternatives in order to further minimize the impact of the approved cuts to our residents.”
The five-year capital improvement program (CIP) was also reduced from $130.3 million to $96.4 million based on updated revenue assumptions. Projects that are not affordable within revised assumed debt capacity have been removed from the five-year plan, and design funding for several of these projects planned for fiscal year 2018 has been removed from the budget.
Construction projects removed from the five-year CIP include the emergency operations center / public safety dispatch facility; animal shelter; and reconstruction of Sweetwater Boulevard, phase II. The voter-approved park bond program has also been suspended until tax revenues can be generated to fully fund the projects. The city has been subsidizing the projects from general revenues due to having only increased the tax rate by .7 cents to-date for the program – far less than the 3.1-cent increase authorized by voters.
In addition to the budget cuts, one-time funding of $210,000 was set aside for engineering studies to be conducted or updated after Hurricane Harvey that may help identify improvements to the city’s drainage system in areas that had structural flooding. A reserve of one-time funding was also established in the CIP to help expedite any projects identified through studies and to repair city facilities and public infrastructure damaged during the storm.
A full list of the reductions may be found by going to www.sugarlandtx.gov/budget.