City Manager Michael W. Goodrum recently submitted a proposed $379.7 million budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins Oct. 1.
The proposed budget includes $280.7 million for operations and $99 million for capital projects. The proposed tax rate remains unchanged at 34.65 cents. The proposal follows guidelines in the City Council-adopted Financial Management Policy Statements, and focuses on strategies and priorities identify by residents.
“Our proposed budget emphasizes investments in strategic priorities and services that provide high value to our community today and into the future,” said Goodrum. “It is a budget that balances economic uncertainties and new opportunities to provide our community with exceptional value, confidence and transparency. It is heavily focused on public safety, our championship workforce, infrastructure and continued implementation of voter-approved projects that address community priorities such as drainage, mobility and public safety.”
The proposed budget focuses on the following strategic outcomes identified by City Council:
- Sugar Land is a leader in financial management, providing taxpayers with exceptional value, confidence and transparency. The city focuses on resiliency and adaptability, innovation, efficiency and superior bond rating.
- Sugar Land is a safe community that enhances the quality of life for residents and visitors.
- Sugar Land is focused on re-invigorating entrepreneurial spirit to keep moving forward. The city recognizes that the future starts now and is committed to engaging the community to re-imagine the city.
- Sugar Land delivers a broad range of destination venues, facilities and businesses that offer entertainment and activities for residents and visitors.
- Sugar Land builds relationships within our community through engagement efforts.
- Sugar Land continues to maintain and develop comprehensive, sustainable and resilient infrastructure that adapts to a dynamic environment.
- Sugar Land takes a multifaceted approach by innovating mobility to connect people, places and the future through sustained investment, regional partnerships, engagement and technology.
- Sugar Land is respected for having strong relationships with the community and at all levels of government because the city is transparent and delivers on public commitments.
The strategic outcome areas guide a “First-Team Mindset” intended to galvanize city resources to support a two-year plan supporting “All-in Initiatives.” These include a Comprehensive Plan update; alternative funding and revenue strategies; public safety equipment, staffing and morale; building a culture of innovation, commercial redevelopment; residential investment; expansion of place-making and events; organizational culture change; a facilities masterplan update; capturing city operations through performance measures; investments in a champion workforce; future capital funding needs; south the Brazos planning; community engagement enhancements; and cemetery/museum enhancements.
The proposed budget ensures continued financial strength and resiliency by meeting all fund balance requirements, including the structural balance of the General Fund, and includes significant investment in public safety, infrastructure and Sugar Land’s high quality of life.
The city continues to be recognized as a leader in financial stewardship, with strategies specifically tailored to the community and designed to maximize both the conservative nature of the city’s finances and to offset the residential tax burden. Sugar Land has one of the lowest residential tax burdens per capita in comparison to peer cities, in addition to the fact that Sugar Land’s tax rate represents only a small percentage of the total average residential tax burden.
Priorities for funding in the proposed budget include base budget increases and limited restoration of funding levels for public services – with restoration primarily focused on infrastructure rehabilitation and investments in the fleet and high-tech replacement funds. Funding is also included for community priorities such as supplemental sidewalk rehabilitation, mobility and traffic safety; special events; citizen engagement and customer service enhancements; public safety training, equipment, facilities and operations; and increased innovation initiatives.
The proposed fiscal year 2023 aligns with the highest priorities identified by residents in the most recent citizen survey – including sidewalk rehabilitation, drainage projects, public safety initiatives and mobility. It includes $99 million to fund capital projects, including the bond projects approved by voters in 2019.
The proposed budget also includes recommendations from the fiscal year 2021 Utility Rate Study, with the last phase of utility rate increases needed to implement citizen-led proposals for the Integrated Water Resources Plan. The proposed rates for 2023 will result in an increase to a residential bill of approximately $7 per month for 10,000-gallons usage — $3 less than the planned $10 increase. Additionally, the current rate for residential solid waste services is $20 per household per month and will increase 5 percent based on CPI increases under the contract to $20.98 per month.
The proposed budget also includes a proposed Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Storm Water Compliance Fee to offset the cost of compliance with unfunded storm water mandates to reduce the discharge of pollutants into waters. More than 100 Texas cities use such a fee to fund citizen priorities. Thirty-two of the 40 cities with populations greater than 100,000 have storm water fees. The fee is proposed to be implemented during fiscal year 2023 after extensive community education and outreach as well as discussion with City Council. City drainage charges are assessed on utility bills and pay for solutions to flooding, erosion and water pollution. The TCEQ Storm Water Compliance Fee amount has not been determined as there are a variety of factors that will influence the amount each user is charged.
A series of budget workshops, open to the public, will be held in August. Public hearings will be held in September to receive feedback from residents on the proposed budget tax rate prior to adoption of the budget and tax rate. The City Charter requires the budget adoption by City Council no later than Sept. 25. For more information, visit www.sugarlandtx.gov/budget.