Denison city employees may receive $375,000 in additional pay next year as a part of the city’s 2018-2019 fiscal year budget. The city council received an update on proposed changes to the city’s pay scale and other new projects and expenses Monday as a part of the city’s budget-setting process.
This year’s budget comes as the city is expected to receive more than $418,000 in additional tax revenue over the previous year while maintaining a tax rate of $0.633377 for each $100 of assessed value, city officials said Monday.
“This budget focuses on our existing employees while adding where we can to our ongoing priorities,” City Manager Jud Rex said.
Civil service pay increases
Many of the items currently included in the proposed budget, including the pay increases for existing employees, were most recently discussed as a part of the city’s budget retreat in June. The talks of pay increases were first discussed as the city was looking at ways to remain competitive amid increasing pay for civil service employees in neighboring communities and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
“People don’t remain in the same position for 20 years like they used to,” Rex said in June. “In order to remain competitive you have to offer those opportunities for advancement or else you run the risk of them leaving and moving out of the community.”
The greatest percentage increase in the proposal will be given to Denison Fire Rescue, who are slated to receive a 5-percent increase. Similarly, the police department will also see increases in pay, with an average of 3 percent, Rex said. The remaining non-civil service employees are expected to receive about a 2-percent increase under the city’s pay for performance policy. Rex said he has not set an allocating of funding for bonuses and other incentives for high-performing employees as the city has in the past.
In addition to additional pay for current employees, the budget also calls for three new positions including a new city marshal. The position, which will serve as a warrant officer, will help the city resolve the more than 3,200 warrants, mostly for traffic violations, that are outstanding with the city.
“With the large number of outstanding warrants, our goal is to help clear those out,” Rex said. “We have not had staff support in the past to do that.”
Within the city’s building department, Rex said he is calling for a new permit tech and manager to assist with the increased work load that the city has seen in the recent year, primarily in the residential housing sector. For the first seven months of the year, the city has issued 95 permits for single-family housing construction, setting it on a path to meet or break the record set last year.
As its last new position, the city is also proposing the hiring of a new finance manager.
As a new expense, the city is slated to to set $670,000 toward street and sidewalk maintenance. This expense was first proposed in 2017 following the city’s investment of more than $2.5 million toward roadway resurfacing and paving.
The improvements were made using a Section 108 loan by the city through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will be repaid over the next decade using the city’s allocation from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program.
Following the large-scale effort last year, city officials proposed continuing efforts on a smaller scale each year by allocating city funds to the project.
Another large expense will come with the proposed renovation of the West Side Fire Station on Morton Street. The large-scale improvement project will see the current living facility taken down to the base and rebuilt with improvements throughout. The $600,000 project will also see the demolition of the site’s training tower, which has been out of use for several years and poses a future structural hazard, officials said in June.
The draft budget also includes $200,000 for the construction of the first phase of the Katy Trail System — a proposed walking trail that will extend along the former path of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad right of way in south Denison. The $1 million project was made possible through a grant through the Texas Department of Transportation, who will finance 80 percent of the project.
Rex said the construction of the project may not start this fiscal year despite the allocation, citing the ongoing planning and design phase. The trail system was first proposed as a part of a new water line that will go along the former right of way.
In other projects, the city is expected to invest $6.4 million in capital water and sewer improvements over the next year. This will represent the fifth and final year of a series of improvements to the city’s water systems.
Projects still to be added
Rex said there are several projects that the city wishes to add, but does not have final numbers for, including the proposed transition of the city’s solid waste collection system to an automated system that utilizes a clawed truck and lidded trash carts.
Through the system, the city will be able to reallocate workers to other tasks that will allow for regular brush and bulky waste pick up on a monthly basis. This will also allow the city to reevaluate its use of the residential waste collection site.
Rex said that the city is addressing its aging fleet of vehicles using a new fleet management system, but details are light as the city evaluates options. The average age of city vehicles is 15 years, he said.
Among the largest expenses proposed during the budget retreat was the $1.3 million addition of a new fire apparatus truck to the fire department’s fleet. The vehicle will act as a hybrid of a ladder truck and pump, allowing the city to retire and replace two vehicles that are either at the end of their useful life or underused, officials said.