The Bellaire City Council approved the city’s budget for fiscal year 2013 on Monday night with just enough votes for a majority.
Four council members voted in favor of approving the budget with additional amendments made by the council last night and three members voted in opposition.
The council’s budget discussion started out with an amendment by Councilman Pat McLaughlan to allocate $335,000 for beautification efforts in the city.
McLaughlan said $335,000 was an amount the city could handle and it would get them started on improvements to the city. He said he wanted to do more than the city’s routine landscaping.
“Bellaire’s a wonderful city … but sometimes we move so slow its agonizing,” he said.
A “friendly amendment” was made to change the amount to $145,000, because the remainder was already included in the budget for landscaping.
While council members Roman Reed and Jim Avioli agreed with McLaughlan’s amendment, other council members wanted to know where the $145,000 was going to come from to fund beatification efforts.
“I’m not hearing where this money is coming from,” Mayor Pro Tem Mandy Nathan said.
Nathan, along with Mayor Phil Nauert, both said that the city recently purchased a house at 5119 Jessamine for $300,000 and passed on a $600,000 offer for the city’s former recycling center property.
“In this budget, there has to be $145,000 somewhere,” Avioli said.
Nathan said that she’s not opposed to beautifying the city, but there needs to be a plan for how they’re going to do it. Until there is a plan, Nathan said she didn’t feel comfortable budgeting money for something that didn’t have a specific purpose.
The amendment to budget $145,000 for additional beautification efforts in the city failed with Nathan, Nauert, Councilman Corbett Parker and Councilman Andrew Friedberg in opposition.
Two of three amendments by Parker were approved by the council including budgeting $1,200 for city council and staff meals for council meetings that start before 7 p.m. and $4,550 for elected officials activities. Parker’s amendment to budget $1,000 for elected officials shirts and badges failed.
The 2013 budget maintains the current tax rate of $0.3999 per $100 of valuation and restores levels of city service.
The 2013 budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by $358,137, or 2.76 percent. Of that amount, $160,558.22 is tax revenue to be raise from new property added to the tax roll this year.
The budget accounts for no frozen positions and step increases for eligible employees. The budget also accounts for increased tree trimming on rights of way, increased litter pickup on Loop 610, increased parks and pools maintenance, construction of the Bellaire Town Square great lawn and pavilion and needed vehicle replacement for all departments, amongst other things.
The proposed general fund budget, which funds almost all city services, accounts for about $15.3 million in revenues and $14.9 million in expenditures.
The largest portion of the general fund, or 75 percent, accounts for personnel and benefits. The city uses the general fund to pay 139 full time employees.