If you hate trying to turn left at the Grapevine Road and Pioneer Boulevard intersection, then perhaps the brightest highlight of the city of Mesquite’s budget for next fiscal year is the allocation of money for a traffic control signal at that location.
But don’t get your hopes up that it will be done quickly.
According to Bill Tanner, Mesquite Director of Public Works, three traffic lights have been added to the projected capital outlay expense of the transportation impact fee fund for fiscal year 2017-18. The highest priority is the Grapevine/Pioneer interchange with a second light planned for Turtleback Road and Pioneer Boulevard. A third light is on the books for Riverside Road and Hafen Lane. They are projected to cost half a million each.
Tanner said that vehicle traffic count warrants must be completed for each intersection before the lights can be approved. He said the counts will be done during the winter months when traffic is at its highest.
If you’re looking for a job with the city, you’ll also be happy to note that funding for 13.75 full time equivalent positions have been approved starting July 1. No new positions will be added to the Police or Fire departments since new hires were recently approved in both areas.
Income from property taxes is projected to increase a total of 4.2 percent to 3.225 million. The increase is due to more new home construction not a rise in the tax rate itself which hasn’t changed since 2004.
David Empey, Director of Finance, reported that 40 percent of the budget, $8.120 million, will come from the state consolidated tax (C-Tax) which is expected to rise 4.1 percent.
Also of note is that income from medical marijuana is expected to increase to $240,000 next fiscal year from $225,000 this year. The budget contained no projections from possible recreational marijuana tax receipts.
The total operating revenues for the city in FY 2017-18 are projected at $19,802,550 an increase of only $172,170 from this year. Transfers from other funds to the general fund total $1.020 million.
Empey projects total operating expenditures at $22.490 million with transfers from the general fund to other funds totally $1.592 million.
The largest expense in the budget, employee salaries, will increase 14.75 percent to $9.509 million. Employee benefits will also increase 4.74 percent to $4.806 million. Overall, about 69 percent of the total budget is devoted to employee costs.
The bottom line – the general fund will have a projected remaining balance of $4.761 million when all is said and done on June 30, 2018. That’s down from approximately $8 million projected on June 30 this year.
City Manager Andy Barton told the mayor and city council at the budget hearings held May 17 and 18 that the city is “feeling the strain of increasing growth” in all the departments and, in particular, can no longer defer capital projects like the city has done the last few years.
Barton lauded Councilmen Rich Green and George Rapson who recommended moving to a three-year budget cycle for normal operations and a five-year cycle for capital expenditures. “That’s a positive move for the city,” Barton said.
Barton also noted that the city is currently in negotiations with the Mesquite Police Officers Association union whose contract expires June 30. The city recently finished negotiations with unions representing firefighters with that contract ending in 2018 and general employees whose contract expires in 2019.
“In 2019 we’re going to aggregate all the contracts and negotiate them all in one year,” Barton said. “Councilman Dave Ballweg made that suggestion and I think it’s a good one.”
Two main areas of the budget – police and fire – will consume almost half the budget with a total expenditure for public safety pegged at $10.808 million. That includes employee salaries and benefits. The total budget for athletics and recreation comes in at $3.667 million while the total public works budget projection sits at $3.230 million. General government, including the mayor, council, city manager, city attorney, human resources, finance, and information technology will cost a projected $2.966 million in the next fiscal year.