Our story of the proposed 2023 City of Hutto budget begins with the City’s first pillar: Collaborate for Operational Excellence and Efficiency. By nature, the City’s new bottom-up budgeting process encourages a spirit of collaboration. City departments work not only with the Finance Team, but also with each other to determine how their needs might impact the needs of others. Seasoned employees worked alongside newer additions these past few months to carefully craft team budgets, knowing that there would be give and take along the way. In this spirit, follow us as the story now travels over the proverbial river and through the woods to shine a light on some key strategies.
Strategy: Gradually add more staff to continue raising public service levels
Hutto is great and becoming excellent—but doing it gradually and conservatively, step by step. With the wounds of the 2020 layoffs still fresh, each and every tax-dollar spent on staffing is carefully calculated to make sure the funding is sustainable. In last year’s budget, the City added about $1.2 million to personnel services and is looking to add another $1.2 million this year. A lot of time and effort is dedicated to guaranteeing that the City hires the right staff to continue to provide the right services the taxpayers want and need.
Full-time positions are proposed in virtually every department, each increasing the excellence and efficiency of City operations. Some of the new characters entering our story include:
- Another staff member in economic development, to take full advantage of Hutto’s prime position for new retail, entertainment and applied-technology businesses.
- Three additional police officers focused on traffic control, so HPD can continue to keep you safe as the number of vehicles grows on our roadways.
- More building inspectors, construction inspectors and utility technicians to make sure we keep up with – and get in front of – the fast growth hitting our region.
Not to mention, with so many families falling in love with #hipponation, we know many a kiddo will be excited about our proposed additions to program staff, such as:
- A children’s librarian is budgeted to help the Library provide opportunities for little ones to interact with others and work on development skills, while allowing children of all ages to have literacy and technology-based experiences outside of a school setting.
- A recreation superintendent is proposed to oversee the much anticipated return of some City sports leagues, programs and other fun activities this year. If that weren’t exciting enough, a director position over all of parks and recreation has been also been proposed to rally the whole team together – including the volunteers on our Parks Advisory Board.
Together, these new positions combined with current staff will help keep everyone on the same page in the City’s story. Speaking of our current staff…
You’ve probably heard the old business line that it’s easier to keep an existing customer than it is to gain a new one. The City is using similar logic when it comes to its employees. City staff is made up of dedicated individuals each striving to keep Hutto on a positive path forward while increasing the quality of life for all Hutto residents and businesses. City leaders plan to run a compensation and staffing study as part of the proposed budget, as we know how important it is to retain knowledgeable, quality employees. Employee retention helps to keep services flowing smoothly for you and much needed projects on track. Results of the study will shape future compensation and staffing efforts, so Hutto can stay competitive in the marketplace and continue to build back City staff at a sustainable and responsible rate.
Strategy: Contract with outside engineers
One of the largest line items in the “contracted services” proposed budget is for engineering. This is a vital service for any city, but especially one that is growing as quickly as Hutto. The City has determined that at least for now, it is more beneficial to continue contracting engineering services rather than attempting to hire the equivalent staff as full-time employees. Engineers are highly trained, highly skilled and typically highly paid individuals. Additionally, the industry-wide shortage of engineers has made it even harder in recent years to find qualified candidates to hire. (Make note of this, future graduates…engineering professionals will be in demand for years to come!) For both of these reasons, it’s more efficient and cost-effective to contract with a large engineering firm.
The City’s contracted engineers do things like design improved roadways, water and wastewater systems, and other sorely needed infrastructure. With their support, Hutto can efficiently move towards excellence as we grow.
Strategy: Move to leasing instead of owning City vehicles
Now let’s turn the page to the equipment needed to continue to provide services efficiently, especially vehicles. The City is currently responsible for the purchase, maintenance and sale of dozens of vehicles across a variety of departments, from public works, to parks and recreation, to the police department. This is an expensive and time-consuming task, especially in today’s economy with supply chain issues. One of the major shifts in practice during the proposed budget cycle is a change from owning City vehicles to leasing them.
Since our police department makes up about 40% of the City staff, we’ll use HPD as an example. A shift to leasing instead of owning allows a regular rotation of available squad cars and other vehicles, which has been a real issue for HPD in recent years. Through a leasing program, the City can set schedules for when vehicles will be added and removed, guaranteeing that the latest and greatest vehicles are always on the road to keep you safe and secure. What’s more –the leasing programs the City is exploring all include maintenance, which will help to keep the vehicles running in tip-top shape.
On Friday, August 12, The Story of Hutto continues with a deep dive into the next pillar: Maintain Financial Stability, where we’ll explore ways the City has been conservative and accountable in budgeting so we can meet your needs for many years to come. Then, during the Hutto City Council meeting on Thursday, August 18, Chief Financial Officer Angie Rios will present the certified tax rolls in advance of the first public hearing on the proposed budget. Stay tuned and keep reading, Hutto!