The Belton City Council met for a virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

Because serving on city council is a volunteer opportunity, it has become a tradition for each member to be presented with a one dollar bill for their past year of service. This year’s presentation had a twist: each dollar bill was made into a mask as a way for councilmembers to remember this unprecedented time in the Belton community due to COVID-19.

Belton Mayor Marion Grayson presented Assistant City Manager/Police Chief Gene Ellis with a proclamation naming the week of May 10-16 “National Police Week.”

“We do remember and honor those that went before us; we all have those dates etched in our minds of friends and colleagues that have been killed in the line of duty,” Ellis said. “And we also appreciate all those people who serve here locally right now, so thank you for your support.”

Councilmember David Leigh presented Alvin Dillard, Flotilla Commander of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, with a proclamation for “National Safe Boating Week,” which will be observed during the week of May 16-22.

“I want to thank you, and I really appreciate the City of Belton,” Dillard said. “We serve the community to the best of our ability.”

In celebration of the upcoming “Nation Public Works Week,” May 17-23, Director of Public Works Angellia Points was presented with a proclamation by Councilmember Craig Pearson.

“So, we have an amazing team of about 45 employees who put their heart and soul into this city,” Points said.

Grayson read the names of those selected to serve on the Charter Review Committee – Brett Baggerly, Brandon Bozon, Dave Covington, Jeannie Pittman, Jane Dominguez, Alton McCallum, Daniel Bucher, Craig Pearson, Dan Kirkley and David K. Leigh, with Grayson selecting Dave Covington as chair of the committee – and those appointed to the Arts Selection Committee – Wayne Carpenter, Gene Ellis, Randy Pittenger, Hershall Seals, Judy Garrett, Cherly Maxwell, Steven Kirkpatrick and Michelle Weaver. The Arts Selection Committee was established to review art proposals and interview artists for a proposed mural on the retaining wall on the southbound frontage road of Interstate 35 at Central Ave. (facing Starbucks). The Ethics Commission, Planning and Zoning Commission and the Central Texas Council of Governments (CTCOG) Executive Committees were also approved for reappointment, with Grayson recommending City Manager Sam Listi as second alternate of CTCOG.

Leigh requested that Consent Agenda #11 be pulled for consideration. This concerns the Loop 121 Widening Project and Listi’s accompanying pending authorization to enter into an illumination agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for lighting along Loop 121.

Council agreed to table this item in order to get the approval of property owners along Loop 121.

Finance Director Mike Rodgers led a work session on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Annual Budget.

He began by stating that this year’s budget will seek to be more transparent and streamline the City’s chart of accounts to “increase efficiency and reduce errors.”

This involves the inclusion of various funds and their designated expenditures and revenues (Civil Service Fund, Maintenance Fund, Library Book Fund and Youth Advisory Commission Fund) into the General Fund. Additionally, an Equipment Replacement Fund was proposed to consolidate six different capital equipment fund categories into one, and a Donations Fund was introduced as a means to combine five separate categories of donations into one.

“The number one thing to remember here is with any donation of any kind, the intent is to use that money, not to just stockpile that money, and so I’m hoping that, for the most part, most of these donations can be spent within one fiscal year; if not, we’ll be able to designate fund balance for those particular purposes,” Rodgers said.

Regarding individual accounts, Rodgers said the identity of the funds will be preserved with separate revenue and expenditure lines implemented for each of the accounts. He reassured Council that the total amount of money that has been accumulated in these funds will remain intact but will be condolidated into one place.

Department-level simplification was then discussed and refers to the streamlining of multiple departments, or job positions, to be considered under one large unit. For example, Animal Control and Code Enforcement would be combined under the Code Compliance umbrella, and the Planning-GIS Budget would be integrated into the Planning Department.

Rodgers then introduced the concept of goals and action items as strategic plan initiatives. Maintaining current infrastructure, funding general operation budgets and maintaining a competitive staff compensation are three goals Rodgers communicated to the council.

Because of the strength of the market at the beginning of 2020, Rodgers said the Tax Appraisal District of Bell County provided a preliminary tax estimate – as of Jan. 1, 2020 – of a 14 percent increase for the City of Belton for the tax year 2020. However, with the impact of the coronavirus, Rodgers and the council agreed that this number will look different (less than 14 percent) when considering at the FY2021 budget.

“I think we need to be conservative in our approach, even with what’s going on as well, and be frugal with the taxpayers’ dollars, especially when the taxpayers are hurting,” Councilmember Guy O’Banion added. “This is far from a normal budget year.”

Based on these concerns, Council recognized that their FY2021 budget might see more of a flattening than an increase from FY2020. Council will receive an update on the proposed budget over the course of May through July.

The FY2021 budget is set to be adopted, along with the tax rate and Strategic Plan, on August 18.

A work session was meant to be held for the FY2021 Public Works Budget; however, Council unanimously voted to postpone this presentation until their next meeting on Tuesday, May 25. Listi said that meeting has the potential to be held in person should Gov. Greg Abbott’s reopening of Texas prove successful in regulating the spread of COVID-19.