Sulphur Springs City Council discussed the $38-million budget for 2017-2018 with all department heads on Tuesday night. The budget is larger than last year thanks to the work being done at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. The water plant will received the same rework in five to seven years. Planning has begun. The plants must be reworked due to EPA guidelines. Although water, sewer, and sanitation rates will see a slight cost of living increase, there is no tax rate increase in the budget. Revenues will increase thanks to a higher evaluation of properties in the city.
The work on the city waste water treatment plant will allow 10,000 additional citizens added or more food industries. Food industries send more waste water to the plant than residents. The council is looking ahead to prevent mistakes that can add a burden to the city services fee.
According to Peter Karsten, City Finance Director, 90% of the budget does not change year by year. However, there are some areas of change in the budget. Under the new budget, if approved, the water and sanitation rate will increase 2.25% and the sewer rate will increase by 3.5%. The rate increases are due to the city absorbing a yearly payment of $745,000 for the waste water treatment plant. The payment in the new budget will be approximately $300,000 more than the payment this year. The 2.25% increase is to keep up with inflation.
Karsten said the budget calls for a reorganization of the police and fire departments management structure. The current proposal calls for a single but does not call for a public safety division which would mean additional management. The two departments, police and fire, will remain separate although both departments will have available additional assets by efficient use of available manpower and equipment when needed. One of the key objectives is to increase the ability of all public safety elements to work together and not duplicate services. This change will call for one management position eliminated from the fire department.
Community Development will also influence the budget. The city is seeking to develop properties in the interior of the city and slow development on the edges of the city. According to Karsten, it is more expensive for a city to provide services if it spreads out as opposed to building up the interior of the city. He says there are a number of places inside the city limits that need to be developed. Developing the inner city areas will also assist in updating the aging infrastructure of the city.
Drainage and utility district projects are also being considered. Some streets and areas of the city are not served well by current drainage.