The Brownfield City Council held a meeting this morning to discuss and approve agenda items such as adopting the tax rate and the 2018-2019 budget.
After the preliminary items and the approval of the last meetings minutes, the council took up item #5 which is to consider the adoption of the 2018-2019 budget. City Manager Eldon Jobe explained that the proposed budget will be $21,277,355.00 of which $ 582,079.00 use of undesignated funds. Jobe also went on to explain some of the larger expenses and that each employee received a $75 cost-of-living increase. Jobe told the council, “I recommend we approve that today.”
After Jobe explained and recommended the proposed budget, Mayor Jerry Gonzales said, “The only comment I have is that during the budget work session, I did ask for a executive business session phone conference with Joslove and it still hasn’t happened, we wanted it prior to adopting the budget.” Councilman Leon Pope asked Mayor Gonzales, “Who asked for that?” and Mayor Gonzales answered back, “I believe it was councilman Nave.” Councilman Nave was wanting to have a meeting whether by phone or facetime because there was concern about the clawback with the HOT funds and the cost of the ballparks at Coleman Park. Mayor Gonzales asked, “I’m not sure how everyone would like to proceed?”
Councilman Pope said, “I would like to proceed.” With about a 30 second pause from the council, Councilwoman Judy Besler said, “I’m sorry Jerry, I didn’t exactly hear what you said, what is it that we’re questioning?” Mayor Gonzales stated they had asked for a conference of some kind during the budget workshop with Scott Joslove who could give some answers about the HOT funds. Councilman Pope made the motion to accept the budget with Councilwoman Tresa Sparks seconding the motion. The motion then went to a vote with Councilman Pope and Councilwoman Sparks in favor of the of the budget. Councilman Nave and Mayor Gonzales voted in opposition and Councilwomen Besler and Valdonado abstained from the vote. Both Councilmen Ricky Rocha and Ray McFarland were absent from the meeting.
TownTalk spoke with Mayor Gonzales about the budget situation. Mayor Gonzales’s main concern was that the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds that are in the budget were not completely agreed upon during the budget workshop sessions and there were a few of the council persons wanting to speak with Scott Joslove. TownTalk reached out to Scott Joslove who is the President of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association and one of the professionals who helped write the legislation for HOT funds in Texas.
According to the proposed budget under the Hotel/Motel Tax Funds in the Other Services and Charges, the 2017-2018 budget allowed for Hotel/Motel Event Funding of $62,538.00 and the Visitor Information Center (VIC) was allowed $59,119.00. That was a total of $121,657.00. Hotel/Motel Event Funding goes towards events in Brownfield such as Harvest Festival, 4B Wild West Bike Rally, Terry County Rodeo, and any other event that helps the hotels and motels have people renting rooms. The VIC which is housed at the Brownfield Chamber of Commerce, their funding went to advertising and promotion for the chamber.
With the new proposed budget, the VIC will only receive $5,000.00. Advertising promotion is proposed at $24,956.00. TownTalk asked Joslove about the minimum of funds that can be used for advertisement and promotion. Joslove said, “With Brownfield being in the “under 125,000 population bracket”, 1/7th or basically 14% of the total HOT Funds must be used for advertisement and promotion.” According to Mayor Gonzales any type of advertisement that comes from the VIC, it must be approved by the city council. Mayor Gonzales stated that he did not know if the funds for any and all advertisement would granted in one lump sum or if it will be a case by case situation.
Also under the “Others Services and Charges”, the city allowed $5,000 for Historical Restoration which goes to the Terry County Heritage Museum, improvements of the arts is allowed $9,000, and sporting events are allowed $6,000. The improvement of the art item and sporting events item were both under the hotel/motel event funding section in the last budget cycle. When asked about these two items, Mayor Gonzales said, “the Improvement of the Arts was agreed that there would be $15,000 allocated.” In the proposed budget there is only $9,000. “Both, the Improvement of the Arts and Sporting Events will take the place of the Hotel/Motel Event Planning.” Again, the section of Hotel/Motel Event Planning was for the promotion of events in Brownfield and Terry County such as Harvest Festival, 4B Wild West Bike Rally, Terry County Rodeo, and any other event that helps the hotels and motels have people renting rooms.
By the numbers that TownTalk has received both the hotel/motel event planning and VIC will lose $71,701.00 or 59% from the last budget cycle. The total HOT fund’s expenses that are planned according to the proposed budget is $174,692.00. That means that there is still $124,736.00 of HOT funds that will still be spent. That portion of funds has been allocated to Capital Investment. Again, when asked what capital investment will take place, Mayor Gonzales said, “I suppose it is for the ballpark at Coleman Park, this is the money that will need to be paid back with heads in beds.” State law requires when a municipality wants to use HOT funds for upgrades to an existing facility or new construction on a facility. These laws are put in place to ensure that HOT funds are used in a way that benefits the hotel industry and that the hotel tax funding for marketing is protected. Communities can use HOT funds on a sports facility only if the amount of area hotel revenues from the sports facility over five years equals the hotel tax revenue invested in the facility.
Joslove explained to TownTalk, that if $600,000.00 is taken out of the HOT funds to be invested for the upgrade or new construction of a facility then $600,000.00 must be replaced with “heads in beds” from events that take place or associated with the facility that benefitted from the HOT funds within five years of the completion of the project. Also, Joslove noted that the HOT funds used must equal the complete price of the project. In other words, the city cannot take out a certain amount of HOT funds for a project and pay for the rest of it out of other city funds. “Any money used must be dollar for dollar, and repaid dollar for dollar and equal the amount to the cost of the project,” said Joslove.
Going back to the budget, according to the Brownfield Code of Ordinances, under Section V: The Budget, Sec.52 reads as follows:
“The budget shall be finally adopted not later than the twenty-seventh day of the last month of the fiscal year. Should the Council take no final action on or prior to such day, the budget as submitted by the City Manager shall be deemed to have been finally adopted by the Council.”
TownTalk has provided the link to the City Ordinances
As of the time of publishing, the council has not made a decision to have another meeting to adopt the budget or change it.