Tyler city leaders expect today to get a first glimpse of this proposed no-frills budget, described by City Manager Mark McDaniel as a nuts and bolts plan that includes a firm grip on expenses.
“We budget very conservatively,” the city manager said Tuesday.
Specific plan details are scheduled for unveiling at 9 a.m. when the Tyler City Council meets in regular session at City Hall, 212 N. Bonner Ave.
Officials said the public should expect to see more belt-tightening strategies, such as fewer job offerings as well as possible hikes in water and wastewater services.
McDaniel said this past year's erratic sales tax collections, combined with flat revenues, affected the financial planning strategy for the new budget year and beyond.
Consequently, this next fiscal proposal will include another year without extras: new programs, services and staff, officials said.
Today's meeting is to be followed by an Aug. 22 public hearing and possible Sept. 12 adoption, well ahead of the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year, records show.
Last year, city leaders rolled out a $100 million budget plan that axed vacant positions and incorporated rate hikes on trash pickup, but held the line on property tax rates.
The city pays for capital projects through half-cent sales tax revenue and has no general obligation debt, the second of which allows it to allocate every available dollar into operations and maintenance.
That approach could change at some point, however, as officials try to respond to repeated, public calls for new capital investing, namely a new event center and more downtown parking.
Voters are set to go to the polls in November to consider whether to allow legalized sales of beer and wine in certain areas of Tyler, possibly generating new sales tax dollars.
At this point, however, officials said they aren't accounting for any new money in their budget plan, and that strategy isn't likely to change.
“We've had really tight, tight budgets,” Mayor Barbara Bass said Tuesday, noting if voters approve the alcohol measure the plan is to stay on course, even if new dollars roll in.
“I think we would likely use it as a savings,” she said.
The city manager added, “We keep pretty decent reserves because we're in it for the long haul … it's not about one year, it's about how you manage after today.”
Tyler continues to weather economic slowdowns at the state and national level, a combination that resulted in freezing roughly 140 city jobs two years ago and eliminating 20 vacant positions last year.
Sales tax revenue is the city's largest revenue source, and since the 2008 economic decline Tyler has lost more than $9.1 million from that funding stream.
The numbers could improve, as the city seems to be experiencing a comeback in some areas of the local economy, such as housing.
Generally, about 66 percent of Tyler's budget is allocated for public safety; 3 percent for courts; 9 percent parks and recreation; 9 percent public works; and 13 percent miscellaneous, records show.
The city's belt-tightening Lean Sigma program is cited as helping carve out more than $2.4 million in hard and soft savings since 2009 by empowering employees to streamline workplace processes to eliminate waste.
The program is credited with helping reduce unnecessary overtime and duplicated parts purchases, officials said.
“This (Lean Sigma) pushes the decision making and problem solving to lower levels,” External Relations Director Susan Guthrie said.
A new water utility study released in June suggests fall rate hikes ranging from 2 to 7 percent for Tyler Water Utilities customers to ward off a looming $4.7 million funding gap, due primarily to $7 million in state and federal mandates.
If the council agrees to the adjustment in this new budget, the average household starting Oct. 1 could see a $2.43 increase on their water bill; minimum billing customers, such as the elderly and fixed income customers, should not see an increase.
Residents who cannot attend today's meeting can review the budget proposal online at www.cityoftyler.org or in person at City Hall, 212 N. Bonner Ave.