FREEPORT — Freeport mayor and city council members were pleased with Monday’s proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which included a $700,000 cash reserve balance in addition to an existing $4.3 million reserve.

The city opted to keep the same tax rate in the 2019-20 fiscal year, which was at 62.8 cents per $100 of appraised land value. City Manager Tim Kelty and his staff are pleased that they were able to budget for necessary city projects without raising tax rates, he said.

The funds remained after council budgeted about $1.23 million for infrastructure engineering and repairs, something Kelty said Wednesday was important to residents.

“We are committed to addressing the infrastructure needs while remaining in the budget,” Kelty said, adding that by making necessary changes to infrastructure, he and his staff are trying to place the city in a good position for receiving future bonds for a similar purpose.

The city also included about $1.5 million to be used for improving sewage issues, which involves improvement to waste water collection, water treatment and water distribution.

Council has been working with the city engineer and approved moving forward with the evaluation of the city’s 30 lift stations to determine how many will need improvements. Kelty expects these evaluations will take 90 days.

This fiscal year, the city expects to address garbage issues which council agreed are affecting the residents and the image of Freeport. Mayor Troy Brimage told council he wants to see this issue resolved as soon as possible.

The city’s current garbage contract should bind them for two more years, but city employees recently found they are able to get out of the contract at any time, Kelty said at the meeting.

The city has already threatened to leave the contractor because they have frequently been having problems with dependability from the company in picking up bulk items from city streets, Brimage said.

With support from the mayor and city council members, Kelty and his staff have decided to encourage their current garbage contractor to step up and comply with the expectations set out in their contract with Freeport, or the city will look for a different garbage contractor.

This year the city took bids on city employee benefits, which had not been done for over 10 years, Kelty said. This change will save the city a large sum of money while improving employee benefits, he said.

Kelty told council he hopes to have the proposed budget posted to the city website by the end of this week in order to give the public time to look over it and prepare comments.

Miriam Jewell is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0145.

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Keeping the tax rate the same is effectively a tax increase, they must think we are stupid!

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