Last week, the City Council approved the budget for fiscal year 2021. The completed budget represents a culmination of efforts by City leadership to find the best ways to continue addressing the community’s needs and take the next steps toward building a better Victoria.
Throughout the process we were guided by the priorities of City Council; Plan 2035, our City’s comprehensive plan that was created based on input from hundreds of community members and adopted in 2015; and our overall mission and values that commit us to enhancing livability for all Victorians.
We’re making significant investments in infrastructure, with spending for capital improvement projects on par with previous years. Of course, improving our infrastructure is about not only how much we spend but how we spend it, and evaluation measures, such as our recent street assessment study, will help us efficiently use the funds to invest in the future.
Our upcoming capital improvements include an updated duck pond and a new splash pad at Riverside Park. Improving amenities plays an important role in community development and furthers the Plan 2035 goal of enhancing quality of life. Funding for Parks & Recreation and the Victoria Main Street Program will be especially important once we finish our master plans for these programs and have a better idea of the changes residents would like to see.
We want our City government to be a 21st-century organization, which is why this year’s budget includes more funding for technology. COVID-19 has dramatically highlighted the need to stay connected, but even when we’re not physically distancing, we need modern technology to deliver the best possible service and to adequately communicate and engage with the public.
We’ve also invested in pay increases for our first responders to help us remain competitive and set us down a path to truly become an employer of choice for first responders. At a time when some municipalities are talking about reducing funding for law enforcement, we’re adding new police officers and actively working to retain the ones we have. We are also increasing our investment in benefits to create better value without passing expenses on to employees.
Our sales tax revenue decreased from last fiscal year as a result of lower economic activity throughout this pandemic. However, we were able to mitigate the impact due to our track record of budgeting conservatively and being smart with our expenses. As an example, our actual revenues this year will be within 5% of our expected revenue, a much tighter margin than what’s being seen in other municipalities.
In light of the financial stress caused by the pandemic, City Council has opted not to raise the property tax rate. Going forward, we will continue to prioritize economic and community development as a way of bringing in additional revenue without increasing tax rates. The adopted budget reflects this strategy by investing in master plans in the areas of Parks & Recreation, downtown and economic development.
We’re excited about the improvements coming to our city, and we want to share that excitement with our residents. To learn more about the budget, visit www.victoriatx.gov/budget. There, you’ll find a copy of this year’s budget and previous budgets along with explanatory graphics to help you understand the information.
Jesús A. Garza is the city manager for the City of Victoria.
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