GRAPELAND, TX (KTRE) - Budgets cuts for the upcoming year in Grapeland have forced the city council to make tough decisions on funding.
Because of a shortfall in property tax and sales tax revenue, the city council voted to approve the new budget that called for the police chief position to be eliminated as well as over $5,000 that the city had designated to the Grapeland Public Library.
Mayor Balis Dailey said through the process, the council started with a proposed budget of $2.1 million but due to a drop in revenue the final budget was coming out to $1.39 million.
"It's one of the hardest things that you ever have to do," Dailey said.
It's the second year in a row council has eliminated positions.
"Last year we had to cut six, and this year we have to cut one," Dailey said. "It is like the big corporate place that is going through a tight budget. Sometimes the higher up person has to go. I am confident with Don Myers and his ability. I would give him a raise if I could. In my opinion, he is the best chief we have had and he has stuck with us this past year."
Dailey said it has been a tough year on business that has trickled down to the city.
"We had Brookshire Brothers come into the city, and that has been good but we do not get much sales tax from them because food is not taxable," Dailey said. "This year, Grapeland has lost three businesses. We would love to get them replaced. We have several leaders working on getting some new business but it is tough."
Daily said other departments have seen cuts as well. Daily pointed out that the municipal judge is volunteering his time now and not taking a salary. The sewer budget that has plenty of areas that need repair also took a $43,000 cut. Daily said right now the city is trying to just keep everything together instead of replacing with new parts. The city is also getting hit in energy costs with Oncor expected to raise their rates by 7.5 percent.
"We are like most small cities around Texas our size," Dailey said. "We are trying to be fiscally responsible."
Just down the road from Grapeland City Hall sits the Grapeland Public Library. Books line six shelves where church pews of the First United Methodist Church of Grapeland used to sit. Many more shelves line the walls that get light from the old stained glass windows.
The library gets funding from corporate donations, private donations, grants and $5,200 from the city which allows them to keep their accreditation. Daily said the city also gives the facility free running water which comes out to about $1,000 a year. Despite not giving the $5,200 in the budget, Daily said he and the council are working with the library and citizens to find the money. Right now, several citizens have brought checks and cash by the city to designate to the library fund.
April Hatfield and her son Caleb browse the shelves several times a week. For Hatfield it is a summer escape and she is concerned.
"This makes me upset because this is a wonderful, beautiful library," Hatfield said. "This is where we go check out books. it's movies and its education. Knowledge is power. if you can read, you can do anything. At the same time, it is not just the library. it is other things, too, and I think we just need to come together and pitch in."
The city will have to rely on three officers with a lieutenant as the lead officer. Bailey said it is not personal.
"We will still have police," Dailey said. "We have seen nearby towns loose their police in the past. Safety is a priority. I would be thrilled to go in there if someone would just give us $50,000. Just send us $40,000, and we will beg our police chief to stay."
Dailey is also asking for legislators to allow smaller cities like Grapeland the same rules that larger areas have when it comes to annexing land, that way people who use their services would also be responsible for property taxes inside the city. It is something not done right now. He hopes it can change, or the future for Grapeland and other small cities could be darker.