City of Stafford passes new budget
By Karen Daniels
According to Mayor Leonard Scarcella, this is the reason for the success of the City of Stafford. The new 2013/2014 budget, which passed unanimously on September 30, is set at $26 million, an increase of $1 million from last year. When you add up the predicted total revenue, there is a $3.2 million shortfall. The Mayor assured that through continued budget meetings the City will continue to address and resolve this imbalance. “Just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean we have to spend it.”
During this fiscal year, Stafford will eliminate their general obligation debt, making them one of the few cities in Texas (and probably the only one with no property tax) to be debt free. According to the Mayor, Stafford’s economy is four times the National economy and revenue is up 8% from last year. The biggest portion of Stafford’s budget – $11 million – pays for salaries. The bulk of that money goes to emergency services.
This year the City Council decided, against the suggestion of the Mayor, to do something different with the distribution of the cost-of-living raises. Mayor Scarcella had wanted an across the board 3% raise for employees, but Council realized this created a wider gap between those at the top and those at the bottom. The solution for them was to give each employee the same $1,425 raise beginning October 1. Councilman Robert Sorbet, a Salary Committee member explained, “It costs every employee the same amount of money to buy a tank of gas to get to work.” Additional merit raises will follow for most after a more thorough evaluation can be conducted. Councilman Sorbet said the salary committee is “intent to work as diligently as possible so not to delay” future compensation. To date, the City of Stafford has never laid-off one employee.
Some new expenditures for the City include: $567K for structural repairs to the Stafford Civic Center, built in 1986. Updates to the pool, IT department, SMETV, and a new Comprehensive Development plan to aid the City’s move into the future. The Council thanked and recognized each other’s professionalism during “this difficult process.” Mayor Scarcella thanked each of his department heads individually, and added that, “Without Karen Austin (Director of Finance) this wouldn’t have been possible. She did an outstanding job serving the citizens of Stafford.”
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