The workshop prior to the Aug. 8 City Council meeting saw the formal and in-depth explanation of the proposed 2016-2017 budget, presented by Financial Director Wes Vela. In the budget, funds have been set aside for expansions to city hall, city vehicle replacement and maintenance, and road improvements.
A quarter of a million dollars has been reserved for an expansion for city hall, allowing for extra office space for a planned growth in staff.
“We’re going to grow staff-wise. We have to have space, we have to be professional so we can keep our employees growing,” City Council member Lorraine Hehn said.
However, in the proposed budget are preliminary plans to construct an entirely new city hall in 2019, in addition to the city hall expansion this year. The new facility will not only include ample room for more offices for a continually growing staff, but a refined, distinct space for Council to meet as well as a municipal court.
Council member John Cox found the plans to be counterproductive and a waste of tax payer’s money.
“We’re wasting a quarter of a million dollars and turning around and taking another eight million dollars in three years for the same facility,” Cox said.
Cox then asked why money isn’t instead being reserved for parks and public spaces. In light of the recent talks to bring parks and recreational spaces to Manvel, Cox suggested the money set aside for the initial expansion of city hall would benefit citizens more if it was used for public projects.
“Nowhere in this whole budget did I see one penny go to the park fund. I think if we want to build a park, we need to give the Parks and Recreation Committee something to work with,” Cox said.
Council member Adrian Gaspar then asked why so much money was being spent purchasing completely new vehicles for the city instead of just maintaining the automobiles. Part of the proposed budget included replacing older vehicles that are typically over 100,000 miles.
“We have to look how to spend tax payer’s money wisely. We need to have these vehicles properly maintained. Just because it has 100,000 miles on it does not mean it is a bad vehicle,” Gaspar said.
Hehn requested the Council comb through the budget page-to-page and negotiate where the city could take away money to fund projects like parks in the next workshop. The rest of the Council and Mayor Martin agreed a more in depth look at the budget would be the next best move.
Council will convene and take that page-to-page look at the budget in a workshop on Aug. 22 before the actual City Council meeting. Then, Aug. 29 marks a special called meeting in order to host a public hearing over the proposed budget. Council hopes to adopt the final budget on the Sept. 12 City Council meeting.
City Council meeting agendas are posted online 72 hours in advance. The next scheduled meeting is Aug. 22.
Story by Aiden Park