CS Councilmember Talks Budget, Wellborn Drama

Money is tight and tensions are high in College Station. Tuesday, one of the city's elected officials addressed a pair of key issues.

Place 2 representative Jess Fields was on Brazos Valley This Morning to talk about budget talks that are just about to get underway for the next fiscal year.

"The state's facing a shortfall, the school district is worried about their budget, and we need to be worried about ours," Fields said. "Last year, we raised our tax rate a little bit, and we had less revenue coming in still. This year, sales tax receipts are up a little bit. I think we need to talk about being aggressive and fiscally responsible even though sales tax receipts are up."

Fields called for a five or ten percent cut in the budget for the next fiscal year to make it more efficient. He also called for a reduction of the tax rate back to FY2010 levels.

The current tax rate stands at $0.4475 per $100 of assessed valuation. The previous fiscal year, it was $0.4394, a rate that had been in place for a number of years. College Station officials tout that among Texas cities of between 50,000 and 100,000 in population, they have one of the lowest tax rates.

"I think [a tax rate decrease] would tell people the City of College Station recognizes the best way to encourage business is to bring down taxes to make it a better, business-friendly, pro-growth environment, and that's what we really need."

The council will meet for a budget workshop prior to the crafting of the budget. That, Fields says, may be a first for the city, and something that newly-appointed City Manager David Neeley wanted to do.

Fields also addressed the on-going situation with the Wellborn annexation and the recall of three members of the council that resulted.

"It's unfortunate that the recall process has diluted the issue," Fields said. "We need to get away from the polarizing, personal aspect of it and move towards the real heart of the issue."

The lone councilmember who is not on the May ballot maintained that the annexation of Wellborn was not something he could support. He was one of two councilmembers to vote against the annexation process continuing. That process would include a study of what annexation would mean for College Station. A final vote on Wellborn's fate would come at a later date.

Fields also has maintained that he is not in favor of the recall of Mayor Nancy Berry and Councilmembers Dave Ruesink and Katy-Marie Lyles, who voted in favor of the annexation process continuing. Voters will decide whether those three will remain on the council. If any are voted out, a special election will be held to determine a new seat-holder.

To hear the complete interview with Fields, click on the video with this story.

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