By HANK MURPHY
Mineola City Council members waded through a proposed city budget Monday night that includes cost-of-living raises of 3% for city employees and up to 5% for those whose work merits a larger increase.
The council conducted a line item review of much of the general fund and will meet again to review other facets of the budget, including the Mineola Economic Development Corp., marketing, the water fund and natural resources.
The council has proposed a tax rate of 56.9 cents per $100 valuation, slightly higher than the current rate of 56.24 cents.
The proposed tax rate, which can be adopted only after public hearings, falls just shy of the rollback rate of 56.97 cents.
Next year’s preliminary budget calls for 55 city staff positions, up from 53 in fiscal 2018-19. Staffing for police, fire and streets remains level. Community development and the water department would gain positions.
The city’s administration proposes to levy $1.52 million in taxes for operations and $251,118 for debt service. The administration’s total general fund request is $5.48 million in expenses, down from projected spending of $5.57 million for fiscal 2018-19.
In a bit of good news for water customers, an expected 5% boost in water rates has been pared back to 4%. After fiscal 2019-20, increases are forecasted to be no more than 2% through 2025, a city analysis shows.
In other business Monday, the council learned that Gateway Lanes, a former bowling alley on East Broad Street, is expected to be demolished in the coming months to make way for a new 7,000-sqare-foot ABC auto parts store.
ABC, SWEPCO and CenterPoint Energy recently resolved certain utilities and easement matters, and the city is expected to close or abandon an alley behind the bowling alley.
Certain memorabilia from the bowling alley has been salvaged and will be used for an exhibit at the Mineola Historical Museum.
Also Monday, the council heard a pitch from Nick Hardwick of Enterprise Fleet Management, which manages municipal automobile fleets for about 90 entities in Texas, including a number of cities.
Hardwick said he believes Enterprise, which also has a car rental division, can lower the city’s costs associated with its 45-vehicle fleet.
The company specializes in managing acquisition, maintenance and fuel costs for roughly 600,000 automobiles under its supervision, according to Hardwick.
He placed Mineola’s annual cost associated with its fleet at $343,000 per year. The company works to maximize resale value by optimizing replacement schedules, control maintenance costs and lower fuel expenses through efficient management of vehicles. The council will take up a proposal at a later date.