The Sugar Land 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.
A full list of the reductions may be found by going to www.sugarlandtx.gov/budget.
Harvey recovery efforts, reappraisals
In addition to budget reductions necessary to respond to current economic conditions, the budget amendment approved by the Sugar Land City Council on Oct. 19 also included an intentional emphasis on Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
The budget amendment reflects City Council’s recent adoption of a resolution requesting the reappraisal of 2017 values for properties in the city that were damaged by the storm. Additional Harvey-related items included the identification of more than $200,000 for current-year engineering studies to help identify the feasibility of improvements to the city’s drainage system in areas that had structural flooding – as well as establishment of a reserve in the Capital Improvement Program. The reserve will help expedite any projects identified through studies and to repair city facilities and public infrastructure damaged during the storm, such as the need to make repairs to the Wood Street Bridge as a result of erosion of the supporting embankment.
“While we know that our city overall fared as well or better than any area within the region during Hurricane Harvey, that does not diminish the pain and stress of the Sugar Land residents who were impacted,” Bogard said. “Reappraisals will be an important benefit for property owners who are experiencing a financial burden due to this unprecedented event. Additionally, creating capacity to better study areas impacted and to address damage from the storm – much of which is only now becoming visible – is important to furthering the resiliency of the city now and in the future.”
For residents and businesses who experienced property damage, any reduction in property value will be prorated as of Aug. 28, reducing city property tax liability for this year. The Fort Bend Central Appraisal District is only evaluating properties that were damaged as a result of the storm. All affected areas will be reviewed again in 2018.
Reappraisal information can be found at the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District website, Forms/Submissions menu, Disaster Reappraisal: http://fbcad.org/Forms-Submissions/Disaster-Reappraisal. Date stamped copies of photos of damages, insurance estimates, contractor estimates, receipts for repairs and any pertinent information will assist the district in determining the impact to property and can be submitted online; emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org; or mailed or delivered to the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District Office, FBCAD Disaster Relief, 2801 B F Terry Blvd., Rosenberg, TX, 77471. Do not submit original photos or documentation, as they cannot be returned.
Once damage assessment is completed, a Natural Disaster Notice of Appraised Value will be sent to the property owner with the value for Aug. 28 to the end of the year. The owner will have 30 days from the date of that notice to protest the value, including if property owners do not wish to accept the reappraised value.
The appraisal district must have current mailing address information for property owners as soon as possible. If a resident has a temporary mailing address or a change of address, send via email to email@example.com or by mail to Fort Bend Central Appraisal District, 2801 B. F. Terry Blvd., Rosenberg, TX, 77471-5600. To update the mailing address, it must be submitted in writing.
For more information, call 281-344-8623 or visit fbcad.org/Forms-Submissions/Disaster-Reappraisal.