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‘Phenomenal’ Budget Given to Corpus Christi City Council

Corpus Christi City Manager Peter Zanoni presented his $1.1 billion budget proposal to the City Council during a budget workshop August 8 in council chambers. Courtesy photo

Mayor Joe McComb used the word “phenomenal” to describe the proposed 2019-20 budget submitted by newly hired City Manager Peter Zanoni. In contrast to last year’s doom-and-gloom $10 million budget shortfall, this year’s bottom line shows an increase of $171 million for a $1.1 billion total.

“This budget is very focused and strategic,” Zanoni told Corpus Christi Business News in an interview. “It’s focused on the most important things that the community and council told me to look at. This budget takes a laser-like focus on things that matter most to the community.”

Those items include street repairs and maintenance, public safety, police, fire, and parks. The budget for road improvements, for example, doubled from last year to $128 million this year.

“This budget contains historic levels of funding for streets,” Zanoni said.

Another big plus for the community: Once the new budget year begins October 1, city pools will no longer charge entrance fees.

“We have an asset here, and we want our families to be able to use it free of charge,” Zanoni said.

Fire and police will get new officers and equipment, including a medic unit. Animal care services also will be able to add a kennel staff position and a live animal release coordinator.

All of which raises the question: Where is the money coming from?

Much of it was already there, said Zanoni, who served as the city of San Antonio’s budget director for six years.

“Developing a city budget is not for the fainthearted,” Zanoni said. “It’s a skill and an art.”

While most of the uptick in street repair money comes from a 2 cent increase in property taxes approved by voters in 2018, the rest was sitting in the bank not being used, Zanoni said.

“We took a look at the fund balances,” he said. “Some of our financial accounts had money left unspent, but they are in funds where the community wants us to put them in production. That’s what we are doing: putting that money into production.”

The only other new money comes from a water rate increase that will cost residents an average of 84 cents a month more than they pay now, an increase in place for only two years.

Other money can be attributed to consistent sales tax collections and a 6 percent increase in property tax appraisals.

Along with the increased city revenue, Zanoni has been looking for redundancies in staff and services.

“We are looking at where we can redirect funding so we’re not wasteful,” he said. “I’m going to be working with every department to show us what programs and services we have and asking the questions: Why are we doing this, and should we still do it?”

For example, Zanoni redirected three staffers in the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity division to work on homelessness and affordable housing instead.

“There’s already state and federal offices doing (EEO compliance work),” he said.

The next big challenge for this city manager, who had been on the job for only 11 weeks when he presented his budget proposal to the City Council, will be implementing that budget once it’s approved by the September 17 deadline.

“A budget is a city’s best strategic plan for a particular year,” Zanoni said. “Next, we have to be sure we have the staff capacity and systems in place to deliver.”

Public input sessions on the budget begin Monday, August 12:


DISTRICT 1

6-7 p.m. Monday, August 12

Owen R. Hopkins Public Library

3202 McKinzie Road


DISTRICT 2

6-7 p.m. Thursday, August 15

Lindale Senior Center

3135 Swantner St.


DISTRICT 3

6-7 p.m. Wednesday, August 14

Ben F. McDonald Public Library

4044 Greenwood Drive


DISTRICT 4

6-7 p.m. Monday, August 19

Ethel Eyerly Senior Center

654 Graham Road


DISTRICT 5

6-7 p.m. Thursday, August 22

Dr. Clotilde P. Garcia Public Library

5930 Brockhampton St.

Public hearings to examine the property tax hike will be held in council chambers on Tuesday, August 27, and Tuesday, September 10. A public hearing on the proposed budget will also be held Tuesday, September 10.

First reading of the ordinance to adopt the budget will come before the council at 11:30 a.m. in council chambers Tuesday, September 10. Second — and final reading — will be at 11:30 a.m. in council chambers on Tuesday, September 17. The new budget goes into effect October 1.

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