Council hears positive financial report


The February Mineola City Council meeting was bookmarked with a very positive financial report and concluded with changes being wrung out by the council in the employee handbook. The meeting took place last Monday at Mineola City Hall.

Financial reports included an overview of the sales tax report which is up 1.09 percent over last year. Even though February’s rebate was down slightly from the same month in 2017, that month previous year was an all-time high. Last month was the second highest month the city has ever had for sales tax revenue, Financial Director Cindy Karch said.

Karch provided a PowerPoint demonstration in which all aspects of the city’s general revenue fund charted higher than last year, as did water fund revenues. As far as the general fund, in the first quarter of the current fiscal year revenues exceed expenditures by $398,705. In the previous fiscal year, 2016-2017, revenues exceeded expenditures by $102,500. In FY 2015-2016, the margin was $78,524 of revenue exceeding expenditures. In the FY 2014-2015, expenditures exceeded revenues by $432,689.

Another chart illustrated the margins of investment funds in the general fund operating balance, including the investment account for this year and the preceding four years. FY 2015-2016 saw the narrowest margin with only $46,008 in the investment account. This year, so far, the amount is $377,367. The financial report included the January bank balance beginning at $377,368 and ending with $392,176.

“We are ahead, but it’s going to look that way first quarter always,” Karch noted. “Because we bring in all our property taxes in the first quarter. Now all we’re getting is just people that are past due. We will not be seeing a much bigger increase in our revenues, other than sales tax, for the next three quarters.”

“Shop, shop, shop,” Ward 1 Councilperson Sue Jones interjected, explaining that she meant for the general public to contribute to the sales taxes.

Also in the February meeting the council readdressed a topic previous councils had spent months on, the employee handbook. It was discussed in a workshop held last month and general agreement was reached on most things. Last Monday City Administrator Mercy Rushing explained the council was being presented two options concerning paid vacation and three options concerning holiday pay. She said that Karch had put a lot of work into the handbook refinements.

“What we found was we actually weren’t following the handbook… It was in the handbook but it was never enforced,” Rushing said, “and that we’ve doing it that way for years.”

The council was asked to decide upon requiring all administrative staff members to take off one full week sometime during the year. A second option exempted the police chief, fire marshal and code enforcement officer from the requirement.

Karch said she, Rushing and Mayor Kevin White had attended a budgeting workshop and they had liked the idea of five days off for administrative staff who handle money. The policy is a Texas Municipal League recommendation to allow any fraud or procedural problems to be exposed. The idea was discussed with the city’s department heads who requested an alternative that didn’t include the police chief, code enforcement officer or fire marshal in the requirement. Even though they handle payroll and payment of bills, they don’t take in cash. White said Police Chief Chuck Bittner noted that it is hard for someone to cover for five days for him. Additionally, it would create an inconvenience for builders if they had to wait a week for a code inspector.

Rushing said the city administrator and finance director would always be included in the requirement. “I truly believe that’s important,” Rushing said. During the discussion, Ward 3 Councilperson Novada Bigham said she thought everybody should be off at least a week.

Three proposals on the rate of pay for working on holidays were presented. The first would have been as the handbook was written, with no significant change of policy, but a change of practice. In this case, an employee who works on a holiday would be paid for actual hours worked at straight time. Then, they would either be paid holiday pay at straight time or save a holiday at straight time to be used at another time. The second was that an employee would be paid for actual hours worked, plus either holiday pay at time and a half or they could save the time at time and a half. This option would pertain to all employees. The third stated that only the essential personnel, fire and police, would be given the time and a half compensation. It was noted that some police department employees, dispatchers and firefighters are required to regularly work holidays. It was also noted that daily monitoring of certain systems is required by public works employees and they can also be called in for emergencies.

During a lengthy discussion, Ward 1 Councilperson Polly Jones asked if the city adopted the first option, if it would be taking some pay away from some of the employees. She was told it would and she said that she was not in favor of taking anything away from the city’s employees, and she supported everyone receiving the same compensation. The discussion concluded with Bigham making a motion that all administrative employees be required to take five days off and for all employees to receive time and a half compensation for working a holiday. The motion died for lack of a second.

Polly Jones then made a motion exempting the police chief, fire marshal and code enforcement officer from the five day off requirement and then the time and a half pay for all employees on holidays worked, and it passed unanimously.

During the meeting the council unanimously approved Public Works Director William Crump’s recommendation to stock parts that were recently broken on the leaf truck, as well to buy a new or used mounted unit for backup. The city’s truck that vacuums leaves was in the shop two times since December. Workers got it out of the shop on Jan. 18 and used it for two days until a pulley broke and it was in the shop until Feb. 13.

The city contacted six different heavy equipment rental businesses, none of whom had a unit for rent. The cost for a new truck mounted unit is $194,859 with a wait time of 150 days. The cost for a new trailer mounted unit is $38,393 with a 75-day wait time. It was also noted in the discussion that very few cities offer the leaf pickup service any longer.

The city council accepted two bids on tax foreclosure property. One was 12 acres on South Pacific Street “basically behind the new Longhorn facility they built” the city administrator said. Ryan Hopson had bid $20,000 and Rushing noted that the city would get some of the taxes owed on that property back. The other was for a lot on Giraud Street for which Patricia McShan bid $850. While that wouldn’t recoup any money owed in taxes, the property would be returned to the tax rolls so entities could begin collecting taxes on it again.

The council also unanimously approved a request by Rushing to split the vacated community development director job into two positions, one as a Main Street / historic preservation officer and the other being a marketing director.

She said in exit interviews the last two community development directors said the job was overwhelming with the number of boards and responsibilities the person had. They also told her they thought the marketing position should be separate to be able to be maintained.

Rushing said that the Mineola Economic Development Corporation was supportive of the move and the salaries could come from half-cent sales tax proceeds and the other portion from the hotel/motel tax proceeds.

The council accepted the 2017 racial profile report which the Mineola Police Department submitted to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. It showed of 1,326 stops made from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 913 (69 percent) of those involved were Caucasian, 203 (15 percent) African American, 190 (14 percent) Hispanic, 15 Middle Eastern and five were Asians. It stated of the stops, race was not known prior to 1,310 of the stops.

In last Monday’s meeting, the council also:

*heard that the Meredith Foundation had approved funding for the museum, for the model train Mineola replica and for equipment for the fire department. “We truly do appreciate the Meredith Foundation,” Rushing said;

*amended the ordinance prohibiting bicycles, pushcarts, skateboards on city property to include areas such as the Peterson Park stage and the gazebo;

*approved a special use permit that would allow Glen Thurman to build a duplex on Cheek Street;

*approved Pam Thurman for a three-year term to the Mineola Civic Center Board and

*heard commendations for Justin Clower in the street department for his thorough assistance with a plumbing problem at the library and another for a dispatcher, Police Officer Mario Arellano and Investigator Josh O’Grady for their handling of a resident’s situation.

All council members were present..