As the city staff closes in on a preliminary 2019-20 budget for city council consideration, all roads lead to roads.

The city’s budget and audit committee met Tuesday to continue reviewing the city’s budget proposal, which will be filed Friday before the city council takes it up for consideration. The council typically approves a budget in late August and a property tax rate in early September, ahead of a Sept. 29 state deadline.

Capital Improvement Program Manager Jim Reed recapped streets projects and lessons learned from the 2018-19 budget year and gave the budget committee an overview of proposals for the upcoming year.

“We still center our goals around preservation,” Reed said. “When we talk about pavement condition index, preservation is what gets us there.”

Reed said his department’s goal is to attain a pavement index rating of 70 out of 100. Waco currently sits at a 45.5 rating.

Proposed pavement projects for the next fiscal year include just over $1 million for crack sealing and filling on 28.3 miles of street, $1.5 million for slurry seal on 21.3 miles, $659,000 for microsurface work on 4.2 miles and $156,000 for seal coat work on 2.8 miles.

In addition, more than 60 individual streets projects of all sizes will be added to the 2020 pavement program. The preliminary budget sets aside $21 million total for street improvements in 2019 and $28.4 million in 2020.

“What we learned from the ’18-19 exercise is that we need to get ahead of these projects,” Reed said. “We’re bidding them a little bit too late.”

The department also budgeted $1.1 million for the second phase of an ongoing Elm Avenue project for utility and reclamation work.

“We’ve got some engineering that we still need to do, but we think we can meet the September deadline,” Reed said.

Director of Water Utility Services Lisa Tyer gave a presentation outlining $22.3 million in improvements to the city’s overall water system, the Lake Brazos Dam, and water lines in downtown, as well as $16.3 million budgeted for wastewater improvements. Tyer said water rates for the city would increase, estimating an average residential monthly bill would come to $96.85, an increase over this year’s average bill of $91.43.

Tyer also said the department is budgeting $23 million for waterline replacement to match the pace of street projects.

“That’s important because the waterlines typically are in the streets,” Tyer said. “We have, in some cases, stalled street projects because we didn’t have the water funds to replace those waterlines.”

Public Works Director Chuck Dowdell said solid waste rates are slated to increase slightly as well to cover the cost of services including curbside recycling.

“We want to hang on to our services because they’re very popular with our citizens,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell said one addition, a brush truck, was added after summer turned into an endless backlog of brush calls.

“It turns out the brush service is pretty popular with our folks, and because of the great rain that we’ve had, we have a lot of brush to collect,” Dowdell said.

The department also budgeted $1.2 million for the design and planning of a solid waste facility and $500,000 for infrastructure improvements on the city’s existing landfill.

The current solid waste rate of $14.20 per month would increase to $16.10 in 2020, then to $18.20 in 2021. The landfill gate fee would increase to $35.25 for McLennan County residents and $43.01 for nonresidents. Dowdell said even with the increase, Waco’s services would still remain more affordable than other Texas cities.

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