What budget cuts in Sugar Land could mean for the city

By Sofia Ojeda - Anchor/Reporter , Lea Wilson - Digital News Editor

SUGAR LAND, Texas - Major budget cuts in Sugar Land could mean the end of several popular events. The city is trying to solve a budget crisis and several items are on the chopping block.

The city of Sugar Land is known for its beauty, like manicured flower beds throughout the city, but now, that's one area that might see cuts.

Some big city events that are held at Sugar Land Town Square, that were designed to bring the community together, could soon be a thing of the past. 
Next year's budget could be out of $1.58 million if Sugar Land city council approves the major reductions.

The city is expected to lose out on $600,000 in property taxes and has experienced lower than expected sales tax collections.

"We're no longer a fast-growth city so permits and fees have been down, sales and use tax has been down," said Mayor Joe Zimmerman.

The city said cuts will be spread across city departments. The affected departments include:

  • Reduce employee merit pool from 3 percent to 2 percent: $316,000
  • Elimination of two full-time positions: $190,000
  • Reduce the travel & training budget by 10 percent, providing $930 per employee to maintain certifications, continuing education and employee development: $72,000
  • Eliminate funding for an external user fee study: $35,000
  • Reduce employee recognition programs: $20,000
  • Eliminate hosting of inter-governmental groups in the city’s suites: $12,000
  • Eliminate funding for Impact Player Partners reception: $5,000
  • Eliminate outside photography/videography for events: $4,000
  • Eliminate support for Fort Bend TREK express run by Fort Bend County: $70,000
  • Reduce payments to in-city MUDs to reflect the adopted tax rate: $42,000
  • Reduce contingency funding from .5 percent to .25 percent of the budget: $200,000
  • Eliminate the New Year’s Eve event in Town Square: $118,000
  • Eliminate the fourth of July event, the Star Spangled Spectacular: $94,000
  • Eliminate the annual State of the City event: $25,000
  • Eliminate printing and mailing of the quarterly newsletter, Sugar Land Today, and the city calendar: $105,000. 
  • Closure of the city’s swimming pool, mainly driven by repairs needed to the pool that are unaffordable under current conditions: $40,000
  • Eliminate supplemental street sweeping on state roadways: $85,000
  • Reduce mulching & fertilizer of bed plantings in city rights of way: $69,000
  • Reduce frequency of tractor mowing along rights of way: $31,000
  • Reduce service in parks including less frequent mowing and pressure washing of parks; reduced landscape, litter pickup and custodial services; eliminating maintenance contracts and restructuring the senior holiday gala event: $50,000

The possible closure of the city's only public pool is especially upsetting to families who belong to the 45-year-old recreational swim team, the Sugar Land Sharks. 

The team got an email Monday from the city saying they could not afford the $40,000 per year maintainance costs. City officials also said the 50-year-old pool needs between $50,000 and $100,000 in repairs. 

"There would be a budget cut and they were sorry and there was nothing they could do," said Joe Babaian, a board member of the Sugar Land Sharks.

As residents heard about the proposed cuts, some got angry and took to Facebook.

"Disappointed for this city. Inexcusably poor planning and cost management," Chas Wilson said.

"You can build a state of the art performance venue and a minor league baseball stadium, but you can't manage a city pool? Shameful," Karen Osborne Carr said.

"This is by far the most ridiculous thing I've heard from the city in a very long time! Want to save some money? How about going back to a city-run pool. Stop contracting out to a management company," Jennifer Boehm Kocich said.

The city's five-year capital improvement plan had been reduced from $130 million to $96 million and funding is still needed to make improvements after Hurricane Harvey.

City council will vote on the budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sugar Land City Hall.

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