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Budgets & workshops & deadlines, oh my!

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

City of Bandera residents concerned lest the city miss its Sept. 30 deadline to approve a budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 can relax. During a meeting on Thursday, Sept. 4, city council scheduled a public hearing on the budget for 6 pm, Monday, Sept. 29. The new budget year starts Wednesday, Oct. 1.
However, residents who planned to attend any of the one scheduled budget workshop will find themselves out in the cold - or rather the heat. A solitary budget workshop was held at 8:30 am, Tuesday, Sept. 9, with only two people attending. However due to council's request, a second workshop was held at 8 am the next day.
The city missed a deadline to file a draft budget for FY 2014-2015 with City Secretary Karen Chesler. For those interested, the draft budge needed to be on file by Friday, August 29.
When council complained that the late date for the public hearing on the budget would entail them "working until midnight," City Administrator Lamar Schulz reminded them there was a mandatory 10-day timeframe for posting the public hearing. "This is the only date that's available," he said.
Since a public hearing on the tax rate is also required, Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier suggested scheduling it for 6:15 on Sept. 29, because "no one ever attends the budget hearing anyway." Cooler heads prevailed and that public hearing will be held at 7 pm that evening. Despite previous predictions by his colleague, Councilman Jim Hannah, Hegemier did not anticipate that the tax rate would be increased.
In other business, by a 3-1 vote, council approved hiring William "Willie" Smith for the advertised 32-hour a week position as requested by Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks. Scott MacNaughton had formerly held the chief deputy marshal slot. According to council, the only applicant for the 20-hour per week deputy marshal slot was not deemed suitable.
Smith has seven years experience in law enforcement, according to Hicks. He has worked with police departments in Castroville and Von Ormy, as well as fulltime as an officer with the Texas Department of Corrections. Additionally, Smith holds an instructor's peace officers certification and serves as a training officer. "Willie's also certified as a breathalyzer operator," Hicks said. "Now we'll have two certified officers onboard. He'll be an asset to the department."
"I was very impressed with the candidate," Schultz said, as was Sgt. Will Dietrich.
Hannah voted against the hiring Deputy Smith, citing the fact that the budget had not as yet been finalized.
However, the lack of budget finalization did not dissuade Hannah - and the rest of council - from approving Schulz from entering into a contract with Tyler Technologies and Randy Hollar, LLC for purchasing, installing, implementing and training personnel on Incode Financial software.
Professional services and implementation will cost $41, 250 with annual maintenance costs of $16,522 annually for five years. However, Hollar, a resident of San Antonio, can provide maintenance as needed, chopping the city's fees for those services from approximately $8,000 to $1,335.
The Incode software will enable the city's three separate computer systems to "talk" with one another, according to Schulz. "It will also allow us to move away from QuickBooks, which leaves no paper trails," he added.
The lack of a paper trail has proved detrimental to finalizing next year's budget. As Schulz reported, "Changes have been made in QuickBooks, but there's no way to track them. With Incode, the history of the data entry cannot be tampered with."
Hegemier asked if transferring data from QuickBooks to Incode was included in the price. It was not. "That would take a lot of effort and the price would be crazy," Schulz said. "We'll just transfer the total over and start fresh the next calendar year."
Much to their chagrin, he also told council that the new software system would not negate the need for a fulltime financial officer.