McALLEN — City commissioners here have kicked off what is expected to be several weeks of deliberations over how to allocate the city’s $388 million budget.
Commissioners on Monday questioned City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez over employee pay and street maintenance funding while Rodriguez presented a parts-historic, parts-forward-looking overview of the city’s finances, including the city collecting its largest sales tax total in its history in 2019.
With the 88-page proposed annual budget before each commissioner, Rodriguez offered a roughly two-hour briefing inside a boardroom at the Palm View Golf Course, the annual site for the city’s budget workshops that typically start at the beginning of August and last for most of the month, ahead of each fiscal year ending in September and beginning in October.
“It should be the vision of the community,” Rodriguez said on Monday.
But this year’s was a bit of a different approach than in the past. The commission has shifted significantly younger and with less elected experience, which has presented new challenges to Rodriguez, city staff and Mayor Jim Darling.
With a broad overview Monday, Rodriguez told commissioners about the city’s history of focusing most on public safety, followed by quality of life. Rodriguez told commissioners his recommendations for the budget, which included adding 19 new city employees, a slight increase in taxes on city residents and a small bump for city employee compensation.
Rodriguez told commissioners what has been going well: The city is about to exceed $62.9 million in sales tax revenues this year, which is currently the most the city has ever collected in sales tax in a single year. Property tax revenues have also increased, and Rodriguez’s “conservative projections” have the city continuing to take in more money next year.
Rodriguez also told commissioners about his concerns: Attrition among city employees. Of the some-2,100 city employees, the city loses an average of 10% of its workforce annually. In 2018, that number reached 15.5% attrition.
“We should be concerned about that number and figure out what’s going on,” Rodriguez said, later outlining a few reasons why employees leave. He added: “Pay and benefits. The biggest reason.”
Rodriguez continued: “When you are a young employee, especially, every dime makes a difference. They look at the pay, they compare it to here, and that’s it.”
Commissioners briefly discussed their own ideas, but that conversation, like most of them regarding the budget, will be fleshed out in full over a half-dozen meetings throughout the rest of August.
Beyond attempting to take care of city employees, commissioners hinted at other questions they’ll likely have about traffic, street maintenance, parks and recreation growth, building management, code enforcement and distributing funds for nonprofits, which has presented challenges to commissioners.
“We have a lot to talk about in the next few weeks,” Rodriguez said.