Mason County News
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City Corner
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 • Posted August 13, 2014

During the past few weeks I have mentioned a couple of times that we are working on the annual Budget for the City. Each year this process has to be completed by the end of September and both the City and the County spend many extra hours during the summer to complete this detailed planning. One of the main functions of governmental budgeting is to tell the citizens just exactly how the elected officials expect to spend and use the public funds that are entrusted to their care. Last week we finished the City budget and have filed it with the City Secretary for an official record and one of her duties is to provide a copy to anyone who stops by the City office and requests a copy. If you would like to examine the details of how we expect to provide for all of the activities of the City for the coming year, please stop by the City office and ask for a copy, but if you would just like an overview I would like to spend a couple of paragraphs explaining the financial plans we have.

First thing is that this is a balanced budget, with expenditures anticipated to be $6,665,845 and revenues to be just a few dollars more which is the way every budget should be. The largest line items in our budget is the revenue and expenses that are needed to provide electricity to the residents, and the total utility budget is a little over 4.4 million dollars, so you can see that is our biggest area of costs. Most of our employees, and all of their attendant costs, are in the utility funds as well as the assorted maintenance and operations costs, but it also includes such other items as the advance funding for eventually handling the closing of the landfill as well as the planning and design for expanding the landfill to meet the needs for Mason for many years to come. We try to plan so that each of our utility departments including water, wastewater, garbage and landfill each financially balance individually, so that the rates we charge for each service is appropriate to the actual cost of that service. The one department that does not support itself, but does provide a very distinctive service is Recycling, which makes some revenue from selling the recycled materials but helps in several other ways so that we gladly provide for everything they need to keep doing a great job serving our residents.

The other portion of our City budget is the General Government fund that includes the office, parks, animal control, the swimming pool, streets and building official. Most of these areas are important for us to support, but do not have the capability of providing the revenue to meet all of the regular expenses. The excess revenue from the utility services is transferred to this portion of the budget to make ends meet, and several of the departments do provide some funding through rentals, permits and fees. This is also the area where we budget in taxes, however specifically for our City they play a much smaller role than they do for other taxing entities since our portion of the Appraisal District collections is just over 3% of the total. We expect to collect only $201,500 in Property Taxes next year, but we do see an increase and expect $256,800 in total Sales Taxes for the City! Most residents have no idea that property taxes represent such a small portion of our municipal budget. This is also the section of our budget that we set aside funds to help pay for our local law enforcement, emergency vehicles and support for the fire department as well as other general governmental expenses.

The final section of our Budget is for Capital Projects that improve our community and provide for our crews to serve you effectively. During this past year we have completely reconstructed the waste water treatment plant to provide for future generations of residents, and at a total cost of just over a million dollars that was the vast majority of our Capital expenses. This year we also have some anticipation of expenses that will be needed that will also have an impact for years to come. We have budgeted for more seal coat paving of our City streets next summer, for paying on the notes for the electronic reading water meters as well as the large landfill compactor that is in use every day. In the coming year we are looking into replacing the large front end loader that we also use daily and which has already been in use for 30 years, and we anticipate purchasing a new trash truck to replace the 20 and 30 year old models we use daily. These pieces of equipment are very large purchases and we are looking carefully into them, and we also anticipate some smaller equipment and vehicle purchases that are also included in this section of the budget.

This is a rather brief summary of our budget, and again I would suggest that if you have specific questions or want much more detailed information please stop by the City office and ask for a copy. The other consideration that the City Commission will be looking at is changing a few of the utility rates to pay for the continuation of the quality services that we provide. We are looking into some increases in three areas that have not been changed since September 2010, so I do not feel that we are rushing to charge more than needed. We are proposing increasing the water rates, particularly on higher usages to provide additional incentive to conserve, a slight increase for our monthly garbage pickup rates and landfill fees, and a small change in the way we figure electric rates including a two dollar increase in the monthly base charge. No one likes to see increases in the regular monthly expenses we all pay, but just like every other area of our lives it is now costing more to provide the City services, and if we want to continue providing for our residents and our future we need to consider the need to fund our town.

Mason is certainly a great small town, but it takes a good deal of planning and preparation to keep our budget balanced and the wheels in motion and moving forward. If you have any concerns or would like to see the details of what is being proposed for the coming year, please stop by the City office and talk with me or pick up a copy of the budget and proposed rate schedule. If you would like to have your opinion heard about how we collect or spend the public funds that I have outlined, please speak to your Commissioner or plan to come to the regular September Commission meeting on Sept 8 when anyone with concerns will be able to speak and will be heard before any decisions are made. Mason is the best hometown in Texas, and working together we will continue to improve.

Your friend and neighbor, Brent

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