Farmersville considers trimming public works budget

(Rigo Moran)

Farmersville City Council debates cuts to public works funding during draft budget review, raises concerns on impact towards local parks maintenance

FARMERSVILLE – With the new fiscal year on the horizon, Farmersville officials are grappling with some proposed budget cuts to the city’s public works division, leaving city council with concerns about how that could affect local park maintenance.

On April 8, Farmersville City Council reviewed and discussed the city’s draft budget to figure out the best way to approach their finances for the next fiscal year. Finance Director Steven Huntley suggested cutting funding to public works by 14% this year to accommodate for a tighter budget.

“It’s a 14% cut (to public works) or about $81,000 in savings. We’re… substantially reducing some equipment lines, and some one-time costs,” Huntley said.

Huntly went on to explain that one of the reasons the budget is so tight this year is because of the 48% increase in animal control costs, which the city is required to provide.

“If I were to sum up the general fund, the budget situation for you this year is we have revenues that have substantially dropped off in the last two years. We have rising costs, and we just got hit with an animal control contract,” Huntley said.

However, it was noted that a portion of the funding that’s geared towards public works goes towards the town’s facilities and parks. This concerned the council given that this cut to funding is on the heels of the public outcry for better park maintenance.

Mayor Tina Hernandez explained she believes that the city should find a way to ensure that the city has the funds to upkeep the parks.

“Whatever it takes to get the money to public works. I don’t like to hear excuses, and I want these parks better for these kids, for the community members,” Hernandez said.

She explained that the residents are not asking for a high level of maintenance, but are simply asking that the city keep up with the grass so residents can see where they are walking.

Hernandez continued by suggesting the city cut their code enforcement officers from two to one since “the same amount of work is getting done” by code enforcement, and reroute those funds towards public works. She also suggested possibly decreasing city sponsorships to create more funds for public works.

Councilmember Paul Boyer also voiced his opposition to cutting park funding.

“I believe we need to reprioritize how we spend some of our general fund, whether it comes from our taxpayers or cannabis tax, and establish a budget that adequately takes care of our parks as it deserves,” Boyer said.

Boyer explained that he volunteered in the city’s Adopt-a-Park Program to help with upkeep at the city’s sports park by cutting leaves, pruning trees and picking up goatheads. He even pulled out his own shoes that he wore when cleaning up the parks to show everyone how unkempt the parks were.

“Last year I saw a huge increase in the spread of goat heads and did my best to pick them up with the cooperation of public works. As an example of how bad it got, I’m passing you all here my retired work shoes that are filled with puncture burs,” Boyer said.

After the council voiced their concerns about the parks, City Manager Jennifer Gomez explained she was unsure what solutions the city council is looking for, such as where they expected to take the funding from.

“If there are other cuts you’re willing to make, we do need that direction,” Gomez said. “Because at this point, we’re not seeing where else we can make cuts, because we did put a lot of time and effort into this draft to make reasonable cuts.”

The city attorney asked the council what the bare minimum maintenance the city should provide, saying if some services are considered an emergency to the council, they could vote for an emergency item that they believe to be a health and safety concern for the city; which in this case, is the requirement for a minimum amount of park maintenance the city must provide for.

The council agreed that the city should at least keep the grass mowed and get rid of the squirrels that keep destroying the sprinkler system. The item will be added to the agenda for the city to vote on at a future meeting, and the draft budget will come back for further review and approval.

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