In the City of Grapevine’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget, there is a mention of a possible property tax rate decrease.  We make note of this because reductions in tax rates (especially property tax rates) occur about as often as visual sightings of Halley’s Comet.

The quote from this year’s proposed budget reads:

Ad Valorem Tax Rate Decrease – The proposed budget includes a reduction in the tax rate from $.35 to $.3480 per $100 valuation.

To the average home owner in Grapevine, the savings would be about $3.50 per year.  Note:  we did not say it was a big tax decrease.

A note in the Grapevine Courier this week really piqued our interest about the 2012 budget.  It read,

Overall, the budget proposes spending almost $134.3 million from expected revenues and transfers of almost $141.3 million. That is about an 8.7 percent drop in spending compared to the current year’s adopted budget. The projected fund balance, a type of savings account, would be more than $8.8 million by the year’s end.

We’ve highlighted the confusing portion of the quote.  The way we read this, it sounds like there is an 8.7% drop in spending from the current fiscal year 2011 budget to the fiscal year 2012 budget.  This piqued our interest because an almost 9% cut in spending would be a huge cut and would be very newsworthy.  So we set out to find out if this was true or if we were just confused by the quote above.

Here’s a look by fund at the fiscal year 11 and the fiscal year 12 expense budgets for the City of Grapevine:

Grapevine TX

As you can see the FY12 expenses are very close to tying out to the $134.3 million for fiscal year 2012 in the quote above.  The number we cannot find is something 8.7% higher or around $146 million for the fiscal year 2011 budget.  We come up with only $127 million based on the funds listed above.  Maybe the Courier is including the cost of the new $14 million Convention and Visitors Bureau building in their total and other capital projects.  We are not sure, but either way the math of an 8.7% spending drop is a little odd.

Side note on the proposed 2012 budget:

We cannot find a summary total of all the funds in the proposed budget document.  We’ve looked.  That leaves people like us only with the option of totaling up all the expense funds manually as we did above.  Why the city leaves out totals for all funds is completely unknown to us, but it does add to the confusion of year over year comparisons.

Another side note on the proposed 2012 budget:

Included in the 2012 budget are increases in pay for city employees of just 1%.  This is really low.  If there really is an $8.8 million surplus in next years budget, how difficult is it to give bigger pay increases out of the surplus?

Here is some quick math.  Let’s assume that personnel salaries total around $20 million (we made this number up as a rough guess).  Another 1% increase on that is only $200 thousand.  That could easily be taken out of the $8.8 million surplus for next year without much pain at all.  Heck, the city just agreed to purchase two pieces of land along main street for about $400 thousand each.  That could have funded a 4% pay increase by itself.