The story of a city is perhaps best told and understood through its annual budget. This Prologue is the first in our 6-part series this summer to share with Hutto taxpayers and partners the story of Hutto’s proposed budget in a new, page-turner kind of way.
City leaders are proposing a $40.2 million annual operating budget for Fiscal Year 2023. The public input period runs through mid-September before the new budget kicks off on Oct. 1, 2022. But how did we get here? And how does that breakdown exactly?
While staff and the community all want to put the City of Hutto’s past issues with financial management behind us, we can only do so by learning from those experiences. Our past has very much informed and shaped our current process for developing an annual budget. As we prepare for the future, we grow from our past.
Hutto leaders at both the Council and staff levels are mutually committed to make smart choices on our spending, and equally well-informed choices on our saving. We drafted the new budget with the memory of 2020 layoffs inspiring us to never let that happen again. When we gradually bring back programs and events, the intent is to keep and sustain them. When deciding what infrastructure construction to fund in the short-term vs. long-term, we have front-of-mind the promises made to our community.
While the future is coming quickly, it’s our long-time residents and businesses to whom we’ve dedicated this year’s proposed budget.
In the past, Hutto’s budget process was top-down, like many other cities. This year, we turned that around. Our improved process is bottom-up – with each department being given the responsibility early on of justifying every detail of their budget request, while also being given the opportunity to advocate for those requests. Not to mention, each department had to explain exactly how their proposed spending (or a cut to it) would measurably impact Hutto taxpayers.
It’s no surprise that our budget process used to feel somewhat rushed, both to the affected personnel and the community at large. This year, under the leadership of Chief Financial Officer Angie Rios—who’s had a huge impact on righting Hutto’s fiscal ship since taking the helm last summer—budget development took a full six months to even get to this point. Those were months upon months of budget organization, research, fact-checks, number-crunching, and collaboration. All City departments gave and took, collectively coming to see and support the big picture of the City’s overall needs.
In addition, City staff have made a point this year to educate individual City Council members on all aspects of the budget. We invested time at key points all along the way to ensure the Council’s concerns and questions were included—not only so Council members could confidently answer to voters, but also so every member of the organization could stay accountable.
So, how does a $40.2 million city budget breakdown? Before we get into the nitty gritty in future chapters of this series, let’s start with a broad look at the numbers:
- Nearly 1/3 of revenues come from the Utility Fund, including water and wastewater sales, solid waste income, and connection fees.
- The other 2/3 comes from general revenue, such as taxes, fees and permits.
- While property taxes are still the City’s largest source of income, sales tax takes a strong second place with a projected revenue of nearly $7.5 million in FY23. Hutto sales tax revenue continues to soar dramatically but, like the protagonist in a thrilling novel, is considered unreliable with a bit of a wild streak. In third place are permits and licenses, the unsung supporting characters that humbly move the plot along.
- Three out of five dollars spent would go to personnel in some way, as follows.
City staff (37%)
Professional services (14%)
Contracted services (8%)
Cities are service providers, so generally this is to be expected. The proposed budget includes several new positions geared to enhance services, programs and communication, along with further investment in retaining current staff. We can’t afford to let important projects stall any further, and we are doing what we can to position Hutto as a desirable place to grow professionally.
- Ever heard of the alphabet soup of public government? Then perhaps you’ve heard of a CIP. This means Capital Improvement Plan—also known as “roads and water lines and hike-and-bike trails and durable stuff like that.” This infrastructure is literally the foundation for your quality of life. Without it, the culture and economy of a community cannot reach their full potential. Hutto leaders are well aware the City needs to expedite construction on several capital projects. Leadership recently took a hard look at Hutto's current and future CIP needs, which were detailed to the public during a July 21 presentation. While they total a hefty $364 million in transportation, water and wastewater projects (above and beyond the operating budget), no decisions have been made beyond the most critical, immediate needs. Tune in for the Aug. 4 City Council meeting for this important discussion on capital financing options.
At the Hutto City Council meeting on Thursday, August 4, the formal proposed budget will be presented to the Council and general public after several months of informal development. As mentioned above, a proposed plan for financing needed improvements to water, wastewater, and road systems will also be presented. The public is always welcome to watch, attend or weigh-in on Hutto City Council meetings.
Check this page each “Fiscal Friday” this summer for a new installment in The Story of Hutto: Proposed Budget 2023. Next up, Chapter 1 will dive into why the proposed spending matters when it comes to the City Pillar of “Collaborating for Operational Excellence and Efficiency.”