Nederland aims to honor needs of residents

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Proposed budget, tax rate aid in addressing community goals

NEDERLAND — The city is entering the home stretch of its four-month budget planning process, with one public hearing left before it finalizes the budget and tax rate for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Nederland City Council hosted the first public hearing Monday to discuss the proposed budget and tax rate — which remained flat at $0.591853 per $100 valuation, the same rate the city has had since the 2012-13 fiscal year — and will host a second Monday, Aug. 31.

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Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said the city is required to host two public hearings because the proposed tax rate is more than the city’s effective tax rate — the rate needed to raise the same amount of property tax revenue as the previous year — of $0.577548, but still below the city’s rollback tax rate — the highest rate the city may adopt before voters can petition for an election to limit the rate — of $0.598601.

Duque said keeping the tax rate at $0.591853 would bring in an additional $178,167.30 in property tax revenue for the city, because some property values have gone up slightly over the last year.

“The City Council decided it was financially prudent to maintain the existing tax rate and recognized that the Nederland tax rate will remain the lowest municipal tax rate (among the full-service cities) in Jefferson County.”

Duque said the city’s proposed budget discussed in the hearing Monday will act as a financial “blueprint” for City Council and staff to work from as they prioritize different goals for the community.

“It’s important for people to be aware of the budget and tax rate we’re proposing so that they can speak up and add their own ideas,” Duque said. “Managing public funds is a responsibility we take very seriously, and the budget process is the community’s way of blessing the needs we’ve established for this community, when it comes to what should take top priority.”

Duque said the proposed budget is slightly higher than the previous fiscal year, with minimal changes within the individual departments.

The proposed budget for all funds totals $21,359,229 in expenditures and $21,586,479 in projected revenues — leaving the city with an extra $227,250 to put in savings, or the city fund balance.

“One of the important things for us is to have a healthy fund balance,” Duque said. “You need a fund balance that can handle the impact of a natural disaster — which translates to hurricanes, mainly, here. It’s our goal to be as self-reliant as possible after a major event, because government recovery money is not always guaranteed.”

The proposed general fund, which covers all activities associated with primary governmental functions, proposed for 2015-16 is balanced, with the total expenses matching $9,984,860 in projected revenue.

Duque said the general fund expenditures are broken up by function, with 51 percent slated for public safety, 24 percent for general government, 14 percent for highways and streets, and 11 percent for culture and recreation.

The water and sewer fund revenue is expected to come in at $4,483,800 — an increase of 0.29 percent from the 2014-15 fiscal year, Duque said. Included in the budget is a $0.01 per month increase to the water and sewer line maintenance fee, effective Oct. 1.

Duque said the small fee increase is necessary to match increasing operation and maintenance costs, specifically the 10-year warranty on the automated water meters expiring.

“Also included in the budget this year is a compensation study to look at our employee salaries, and we’re very excited to get this going,” Duque said. “The city has not done a salary survey in 20 years. All of this is still in the planning phases, but we hope to have it all completed by spring.”

Duque said there are a few capital projects that will transfer into the new budget year, including the new city shop building at the service center on Hardy Avenue, postponed additions at the Nederland Swimming Pool and, “of course, the Nederland Avenue study.”

“One of the bigger things we’re wrapping up is the Nederland Avenue project — the study to identify the underlying issues, and how to address them, along that road,” he said. “The study is nearly complete, and they’re going to present those issues, possible solutions and potential costs of the solutions they’ve come up with once they’re finished. After that, we’ll be meeting with property and business owners along Nederland Avenue to bring in their input for what issues can foresee by implementing any of the proposed solutions.”

The final tax rate hearing for the 2015-16 fiscal year is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, at Nederland City Hall, 207 N. 12th Street.

To review the full proposed budget with tax rate information included, visit the City of Nederland website.

For more information, call the city manager’s office at (409) 723-1503.

Twitter: @crhenderson90