Manvel city council approved a fiscal year budget that maintains the current city tax rate at .587863 per $100 valuation. The initial budget presented by the city manager called for a higher rate but council was unanimous in its direction to city staff to hold the line on any tax increase.
The current budget will realize additional revenue, which effectively raises the tax rate by 1.64%, but is due to a larger tax base and increased property values in the city. Most every city employee will see a raise from the budget as city manager Kyle Jung strives to bring city compensation to a more competitive level with other like cities in the area. Next year’s revenue should see a fairly significant increase as new homes from Lakeland will be added to the tax rolls.
Council also approved a budget for the Manvel Economic Development Corporation that saw an increase in its projected sales tax revenue from last years $150,000 to this years proposed $240,000. The expense side shows little change from last year with orientation and training up from $1,500 to $3,000. City Secretary Tammy Bell explained to council that the increased amount will allow the MEDC chairman to attend various seminars and training programs this fiscal year while maintaining funds for other Board members to also attend some training or seminars that may become available.
Accounting fees also increased from $1,500 to $5,000. Bell explained that purpose as providing for additional reporting requirements from a CPA should a big project or bond issue be forthcoming. The projects category increased from $112,000 to $197,500. The funds remaining from last year went to this category in order to show a balanced budget for the year. If a project comes forward, it must be brought before council to earn approval before any funds can be disbursed.
Bell told council of a new website for MEDC that will contain a blog section allowing for “all kinds of daily updates, different council things, and kind of like a Facebook account.” The site is currently under development but is expected to be up and running soon. The MEDC is presently fully manned with Bradley Gardner serving as its Chair, Karen Kinlaw as Vice-chair, and council member Melody Hanson as secretary.
Economic Development Corporations for a city are generally established to improve the economic base and enhance its business environment. Programs are designed to attract, retain, and assist new and existing businesses and jobs through a variety of activities including grants, loans, and the provision of information. At a recent meeting of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, council member Melody Hanson described the Corporation as “kind of a silent partner with the city” and explained that “for many years there wasn’t really a project or sufficient funds available, so members were conservative in just holding the money and letting it accrue which has allowed the opportunity to do a major project.”
MEDC is currently funding and/or coordinating the installation of water and sewer infrastructure to service future development along Hwy 6 to Hwy 288. Planning and engineering is in process while securing the needed easements to allow the project to move forward is ongoing. Past projects moved by the group include the installation of a water/sewer line to service the ProBuild Lumber facility on the south side of Hwy 6 from FM 1128, water and sewer lines servicing the eastern portion of Hwy 6 from FM 1128 to roughly the Burger barn location, and a water line along 1128 to service a dance studio.
Voters’ approval of a change in sales tax allocations in 2010 resulted in lower funding for MEDC as a portion was dedicated to road improvements. Hanson expressed hope that prior funding levels will be restored at some point while conceding the benefit of the increased money put toward roads and bridges. “In the long run, spending money like we are on projects such as the water/sewer installation down Hwy 6 will be far better for the city,” Hanson believes.
In other council news, AISD Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent addressed council on the upcoming bond referendum that voters will decide in November. Brent expressed the plan of getting the new junior high in Manvel opened for the 2015-2016 school year and the funding of design and planning for a career and technical high school that very likely would be located on the site of the old Manvel Junior High on Lewis Lane. Some programs are already underway at the campus through the annex building and Brent claimed them to be very successful. While plans are yet to be drawn, the redevelopment of the site is expected to nicely accommodate the new facility as ball fields and such will not be required in a facility of the type envisioned. He also told council of a new 2,500 student high school to be built in the Shadow Creek Ranch area of Pearland if the bond receives voter approval. The school would be open in time for the 2016-2017 school year and should provide considerable relief to Manvel High School which is already at capacity. A new stadium and competitive natatorium complex is planned as well and Brent indicated it should be placed in a neutral location as it is likely as many as five high schools will eventually be using the facility. While not specifying Manvel as a probable site, due to its central location between Alvin and Pearland the city would be a logical choice for its construction. The bond issue would only fund the acquisition of land and the design of such a facility as any construction costs would be required from a future bond referendum.
Council retired into an executive session to consult with their attorney the economic development negotiations between the City of Manvel and Municipal Utility District (MUD) 42 that would service the planned commercial development on the northwest side of the intersections of State highways 288 and 6. The plan calls for a development of nearly 270 acres and envisions high end retail and big box stores much as is located north on FM 518 in Pearland. Developer agreements require construction to begin within five years but the developer is optimistic that it could begin in as soon as two or three years.