At the Aug. 28 Navasota City Council Regular Session budget workshop, the FY 2023-24 budget received a degree of scrutiny not seen in recent years. Pointed questions were posed by two members of the public but among the council, newest member James Harris voiced the most concern about wants versus needs, new positions, a top heavy management staff and employee burnout from work overload. Pattie Pederson gave a two minute declaration in support of City Manager Jason Weeks, Josh Fultz opposed constructing new restrooms at city parks and Bernie Gessner and Mayor Bert Miller had little comment.
Weeks began by saying he had been asked to trim the budget approximately $1 million-$1.5 million and outlined possible cuts totaling $947,723 in priority order.
Those included eliminating the Flash Vote Survey, $11,800; purchase of three land parcels from Union Pacific, $263,814; Texas Birthday Bash (TBB) with its $300,000-plus deficit; the $81,792 Marketing & Multi-media Specialist position if TBB is eliminated; the $26,500 Charter Election; the Incode-10 software at $94,320 and closing the swimming pool, $123,664.
Weeks reiterated the need for the nine new positions to relieve the increased workload fueled by growth, economic development, and in the case of School Resource Officers, a state mandate. He also reviewed the seven goals established by city council after the Strategic Plan meetings earlier this year.
Addressing the City providing Navasota ISD with SROs, Weeks said, ”We’re obligated to do one. You have to do it because this council cannot sit back and not help out NISD by not providing them an additional SRO.”
As for the Assistant City Manager (ACM), police and fire positions, those five new hires will return staffing to pre-2016 reduction-in-force levels or fill vacancies in existing positions.
Between his position, the ACM, the proposed Building Official/Plans Examiner and the Development Services Director, Weeks said, “You’re pulling some of that load off the Development Services Director. This is one way to be able to relieve some of that tension.”
Regarding the proposed Main Street Manager funded by Parks and Recreation through HOT (hotel/motel) funds, Weeks said, “We’re not stopping that process to become a Main Street City. I need council to understand that at some point if you want to become a Main Street City, you have to hire a Main Street Manager. It’s part of the requirement.”
Weeks advised that eliminating the nine new positions will have no impact on utility increases because Water, Gas and Wastewater Funds are separate from the General Fund.
The average resident will experience an increase of $27.13 for water, sewer and gas plus a $1.69 Republic Services pass-thru increase. In addition, the City will implement volumetric rate tiers, meaning those water users exceeding 15,000 gallons will pay a higher rate for their water.
Referring to the recent utility study, Weeks said, “Utility rates have to be done. If they’re not done, there are consequences. Our infrastructure in the city has been neglected for years. If we don’t find a way to start paying for and fixing those things, we’re going to be in dire need.”
Weeks cited the need for the new water plant facility on the east side in response to growth and said issuing debt will insure that future residents contribute to those payments.
At the end of the two and a half-hour meeting, it was noted that citizen requests related to the Navasota Public Library would be reconsidered and Harris accepted the rationale for additional staff saying, “I’m sure if one of these positions don’t work out, the council will have the authority next year not to approve it in the budget.”
Weeks advised there will be a joint city council/parks board meeting before the two public hearings and first and second readings of the tax rate and budget set for Sept. 11 and Sept. 25, both at 6 p.m. in city council chambers.
Water well No. 8 in the works
Moving forward with the east side water plant, council approved an agreement to pay R. W. Hardin and Associates $165,300 to provide design services for the new Water Well No. 8.
R.W. Hardin specializes in municipal water wells and the proposal includes supervision by Professional Geologist Elizabeth Ferry who will also be assessing a future second well. Funding was approved in the November 2022 bond issuance.
View council meetings at www.navasotatx.gov/government/ city_council/agendas_minutes.php.
View the budget presentation at https://www.navasotatx.gov/alert_detail.php.
•Introduction of Laura Capehart, Republic Services new Manager of Municipal Services for the Navasota area.
•Graduate Engineer John McKay provided updates on the Annual Street Maintenance Project, Fire Hydrant Replacement Project, Airport Utility Extension Project and the Streets and Utilities Capital Improvement Project.
•Public Works Director Jennifer Reyna reviewed the voluntary water conservation program. Residents with even numbered addresses are asked to water Sunday and Thursday and odd-numbered addresses to water Saturday and Wednesday, from 6 p.m. – 9 a.m. The City has cut back on irrigating athletic fields and will not flush the lines in September.
Deborah Richardson commented on the proposed certification, catastrophic leave policies and the proposed budget. While complimenting the transparency, she suggested some items be postponed and redirect some funds to make the Navasota Library an accredited library; open the library Saturday mornings; not hire an Assistant City Manager, Main Street Manager or Marketing & Multi-media Specialist at this time; dispense with expensive surveys and some park renovations; construct and charge for covered parking and that staff should ride down every city street once a year to determine needs.
Dia Copeland posed questions about the budget related to shortfalls, increasing utility rates and their direct benefit for citizens, concerns about large undefined “professional fees” and “miscellaneous” expenses and eliminating the $276,000 way finding expenditure following the recent negative citizen response.