The city of Bryan’s $400 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 was approved in a 6-1 vote on Tuesday.
The new budget will go into effect Oct. 1 and has allotted funds for seven new positions, including police officers, as well as a $70 million regional park that is part of the city’s ongoing Midtown development project. The budget also includes a $2.34 million raise in total property taxes, with $903,943 from new property tax revenue. The total funds represent a 0.3% decrease from the 2019 budget.
Councilman Mike Southerland voted against the budget, as he did at the first reading last month, due to his concerns about the location of the park and other projects that have been postponed.
“If we have that amount of money to spend on one park, it just seems like we could do better with all the other needs in town,” Southerland said. “Kids need places to play, but I think they need them spread out over town.”
During the Hear Citizens portion of the meeting, nine people spoke in favor of the budget — specifically the regional park — while eight spoke in opposition. Mayoral candidate Patrick Giammalva and former councilman Rafael Pena III — who is running for the Single Member District 2 seat — were among those against the park.
President and CEO of Experience Bryan College Station Kindra Fry, who also spoke at last month’s budget public hearing, said the park could host a wide variety of events. Additionally, Fry said tourism generates millions of dollars for the city, and the park could add to that.
“Tourism in our community creates 7,200 jobs,” Fry said. “This will be a great asset for us to have here.”
Tuesday’s meeting also included the first of two public hearings to discuss the tax rate, which will continue at $0.6299 per $100 valuation, with $0.153 per $100 designated for debt service. The second tax rate public hearing will be Sept. 17, and the final vote will be Sept. 24.
Pena and Giammalva were the only people who spoke during the public hearing for the tax rate. Giammalva said he is glad the rate would not rise, but is disappointed in the way the city spends the money. Pena said he is happy the tax rate will remain the same but is concerned that some of the plans mentioned in the budget could lead to a tax rate increase in the future.
Several other items from the consent and statutory agendas were unanimously approved, including routine insurance renewals. Two rezoning requests also were unanimously approved; nobody spoke at the public hearings for either.
Additionally, council members participated in a workshop Tuesday morning at Coulter Airfield to hear updates about the property. The city of Bryan has managed day-to-day operations since April 2010. Since 2017, there have been several new developments, including a new box hangar, a 10-unit T-hangar and sewer expansion.
Currently, the main runway is 4,000 feet, but many insurance companies require a 5,000-foot runway for large corporate jets to land. Coulter Airfield staff will submit a proposal to the council in about eight months outlining whether or not the runway can expand to 5,000 feet. The expansion could significantly change future operations at Coulter, officials said.