By Leslie Gibson

Herald-Banner Staff



FATE—Unanimous approval of the 2008-09 budget took place Aug. 25 in regular meeting of the full Fate City Council.

On the immediate horizon, the little town will put its Home Rule Charter on the general election ballot, and also on the horizon is the hiring of a city manager. Since the resignation of its first city manager, Gerry Boren, last year, the city has had one interim, and then asked its consultant, Trent Petty, of Petty and Associates, to step in.

Every time he leads a council session, council members and staff agree, “We learn so much,” as mayor pro tem Sheri Garber said after the meeting.

Christy Schell, interim city secretary, and mayor Bill Broderick have echoed that sentiment in past interviews. Petty has extensive experience in city management and consulting.

His expertise and his frank answers to citizen questions during the budget public hearing gave new citizens an opportunity to learn about Fate’s finances and plans.



Fund Balance/Legal Fees



Donna Askew, who has moved into the Woodcreek development of Fate, began her questions on the topic of an “overage of money from last year.”

It is not an overage, but money earmarked for special projects, she, and a full hall of citizens learned. “Over the years, the city received a great deal of money from developers as part of agreements. It is encumbered for special projects,” Petty said.

For instance, $1.7 million is earmarked for a pump station and 2.2 million gallon ground storage tank, for which the city will not go into debt. Other projects are city hall, fire station. Engineering is underway for the tank, it was learned later in the meeting.

As far as the fund balance, of $957,000, “The city always tried to keep a 90-day fund balance,” Petty said. He noted it is earning about 2.25 percent interest, down from 4.5 percent.

Askew asked about $75,000 in legal and consulting fees for Williamsburg. That money finishes up the Public Improvement District (PID) planning for the development, which opted to go that route for infrastructure financing. PIDs are legally complex, according to Internet research and past interviews with Petty, and do not place the city under any responsibility for paying the bonds sold to support the PID district’s improvements. In a PID, each lot owner must pay an assessment. It is that assessment determination which is cumbersome and technical. In a Municipal Utility District (MUD), such as Woodcreek, the lot owner pays a tax, which was approved by voters prior to the bulk of the development being constructed. In the PID, the developer will reimburse the city, which incurs costs. The $92,000 in attorney fees is all based on hours worked, Petty told her, not a retainer.

The engineering and municipal consultant fee concerned Askew. “We had a $20,000 bill from the city engineer last month alone. A lot of work is required, Petty said. “Every time a plat is filed, a physical improvement, a zoning case, a TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) highway alignment, a North Texas (Municipal Water District) projection — an engineer has to assess it.”



Bonds and COs



A 1989 bond, to be paid off in 2009 was questioned. “I do not know the original amount,” Petty said. “It is amortized, and I don’t know what it’s for.”

“Is the city considering a new bond before it is paid for?” Askew asked.

“The council would decide. It is very common,” Petty said. “Any general obligation bond must go before voters.” Certificates of obligation, or COs are issued by vote of the entity, not the public, and are for “must have’s” usually, Petty said. “Cities issue CO’s (certificates of obligation) on a regular basis, which don’t go to voters. COs are for things the entity must do.”

“As far as significant new debt, this council has informed me they would go to the voters.”



Parks



Askew wanted to know about $60,000 for the parks budget, saying, “Don’t we just have one park?”

Fate has two parks, though construction on Robert Smith Family Park, which is grant-funded, has not begun. The other is the downtown park, for which improvements are slated. With the park facilities will come a need for a public works/parks position, one who can perform public works duties, and also run the parks and those budgets. “It will be a significant impact next fiscal year,” Petty said.



Zoning Questions



Askew also noted that someone told her they went to city hall and were told only Trent could handled a rezoning item.

Petty said that Fate has no planning and zoning administrator. Staff’s responsibility is to take information, and the planning and zoning commission makes recommendations to the council.



Downtown



Downtown street drainage and appearance came up next. Askew said, “This downtown area, the four corners, is in desperate need of repair and cleanup. I do business here,” she said, “On purpose, I live here. I have to wade through water. What’s the plan to correct that drainage?”

“The significant needs in Fate are for drainage and street repairs,” Petty said, noting that four subdivisions have similar needs. “Everybody in the city is conscious of the need to repair these roads. Unless you go to the voters for a bond for $3 million, you will have to do this incrementally.”

The $60,000 for street repairs, which had been set to resurface two downtown streets is now going to the roads of Blackland and Greenbriar to provide traffic accommodation for the new Royse City ISD intermediate school going there, mayor Bill Broderick said. Soil samples had already been drilled.

Petty said his opinion is that Fate should do no more chip seal. Instead, a true repair should be made, even if it is just one street. Flattening the crown on the downtown streets and creating a street that would drain properly would solve downtown street drainage, he said.

City hall could be built at Williamsburg on five acres donated by that developer. However, the council has been exploring other options too, Broderick said. Petty said. $1.85 million was given by the developer for the city hall building.

Askew suggested that the city of Fate decorate during the holidays and that budget be included.

“I’m quite grateful we have a solid substrate budget we can hang our hats on,” Broderick said. “We have new hardware and software — this is the kind of detail this council has never seen before.”



Animal Control



Animal control will cost Fate about $4,700 more this budget cycle than ever before. “Its been provided by Royse City at basically no cost,” Petty said, referring to the $374 in last year’s budget. It will be $5,000. “This is less expensive than us doing it. They have agreed that in spite of their situation over there to honor the contract,” he said.

Capital Project Funding



“This is the first time we’ve had a capital projects budget,” Petty said. “Money is allocated and carried over to keep the capital fund account accurate. We have assigned that money and keep that money and track it.”



Miscellaneous Topics



Municipal court revenue was asked about by Woodcreek resident Willie Williams. It could be up next year, Petty said, — the projected offenses revenue of $225,000 may be conservative.

Public notices for the 2008-09 budget are at $3,500. This was questioned by Williams. “Next year is a busy year,” Petty said, “a bit of an anomaly,” referring to the November charter and the likelihood that annexations will be pursued should the charter pass.



Salaries



Salaries seem a little high to Williams for a city the size of Fate, he said.

The budget includes an across-the-board increase of 3 percent based on performance. “Fate is in the 55th percentile compared to other cities” Petty said, in salary rates. In particular, city secretary caught the attention of him and Askew. Petty said it is easy to find city secretaries making $75,000 in this area, and reminded them that one must be certified. “There is a limited pool of people qualified to do this work,” Petty said. “Just because this is a small city, you can’t go one-third off the salary,” he said.

Fate does not have a step and grade system yet, he said, to Williams’ question about that.

“I would challenge you to look at any position in the City of Fate and compare. We are lucky to have the people we have,” he said.

Broderick said in the past, no one bid on posted positions. “We have a history of trying to find and hire. We are facing that with the city manager,” he said. He said the council found that the caliber of applicants varied with the salary expectations.

Budgeted is $130,000. To get a master’s degree, five years of experience with a progressive city, with enterprise fund experience requires that, he and Petty said. Because of the variety of management duties in a small city with fewer departments and staff members, a manager must bring a variety of expertise, they noted, for example, in planning and zoning.

Recommended for you