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Members of the Houston City Council are moving close to adopting its 2022 budget after work sessions to determine priorities for the coming year.

The council gave first-round approval to the spending document on Nov. 15. Final okay is expected to come at the Dec. 6 council meeting. 

Following requests from department heads, the council, City Administrator Scott Avery and Mayor Willy Walker crafted the document after meeting several times.

Several capital projects and expenditures are included the preliminary document:

•Paving equipment costing $45,000 would be purchased by the public grounds department from a quarter-cent transportation sales tax. The city will purchase a filler to slow the progression of cracks in streets and parking lots. The city says this allows crews to work on areas that need to be patched and avoid laying more asphalt.

A John Deere tractor that pulls a 17-foot mower would be purchased at a cost of about $54,000. Public grounds also would pick up a full-time position and additional part-time labor at a cost of $10,000.

•The water department would purchase a camera system that would identify problems in sewer lines that would avoid bringing in an outside contractor to do the work. The cost is $92,000. Improvements at the city’s four wells total $32,000. A new pump at a west sewer lift station is estimated at $50,000.

The city hopes to tap federal fund coming to the state for camera costs. That would allow the city to regularly examine areas to undercover any problems. A vendor would follow to add a liner in the trouble spots.

•A new Ford F-350 truck would replace a 2002 model.

•A battery-powered rescue tool would be added to a reserve fire truck pumper at a cost of $12,000. Two new breathing apparatuses would be added as part of a replacement schedule at a cost of $20,000. Work would begin at the city’s industrial park for a firefighter training facility. The cost is $25,000.

•The electrical department would purchase a trailer for interior fiber splicing when the weather turns nasty. That costs about $25,000. A second fiber splicer would be bought for about $10,000. A lean-to structure would be added at the electric building to store fiber materials and equipment at a cost of $25,000. As its fiber internet system gets under way, the city projects revenue of about $164,600. Expenditures total about $509,347. As sections come online, the city continues to hook up customers. Last week, 21 were added. Other residences are being prewired to allow them to receive a connection quickly when work is completed in their area. A zone near the airport is set for splicing beginning next Monday. The city’s workers will target a region north of Pizza Hut in December.

•The police would restart its K-9 program to aid in effective searches for drugs and of people. The startup costs are estimated at $20,000. Due to shipping delay issues, the department would purchase a one-time order of $7,000 of ammunition. Two radar units totaling $5,000 would be bought. A training budget would be increased to $16,000 annually.

•Administration would purchase a new vehicle to replace a 2014 model. A 2.2 percent cost of living increase would be adding to all pay steps. In addition, a longevity pay program would be implemented to those reaching their final pay step.

•Westside Park will see major improvements to offerings there, including a new half-court basketball facility, a volleyball court, improvements to the tennis court, and new fencing and metal picnic tables to replace ones that are subject to vandalism and a new pickleball court.

REVENUES

If all goes as planned, the city’s general fund would bring in revenue totaling about $2.96 million. Expenditures are pegged at about $2.93 million. Sewer revenue totals about $1.2 million and the electrical department is expected to generate about $3.5 million.

Sales taxes generate the lion’s share of revenue. In addition to a long-standing one-cent sales tax, merchants in the city also collect other levies earmarked for improvements: Two quarter-cent taxes for transportation and utility needs. Another one-cent sales tax is divided among the police, parks and fire departments. Half goes to parks at a total of $408,405, police get $147,656 and the fire department receives $268,314, according to projections.

OTHER ITEMS

•The city’s volunteer fire department will receive an increase in pay — including a larger increase for those entering structures.

•The budget reflects an increase in lifeguard coverage at the Houston Municipal Swimming Pool, which started this year after a near drowning.

•General liability insurance jumped $48,129 due a risk assessment. The city had a large claim following a March 2020 hail storm.

•Higher gas prices are reflected throughout the budget.

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