By Sylvia Cedillo
On September 8, the City of Prairie View City Council held a special budget meeting to meet the State of Texas’s September 29 deadline for adopting its budget. The quorum included all council members and the mayor, with Council member Jonathan Randle absent. This year’s budget includes an increase of $3.79 million dollars over last year’s budget of $7.45 million dollars. The budget relies on $3 million dollars in bond revenue and $2.5 million dollars in unrealized grant revenue.
The City’s $11.2 million dollar budget includes payroll and benefits for 13 police officers, with an additional 2 officers budgeted for hire in January, according to Mayor Brian Rowland. In Prairie View, law enforcement comprises about 10 percent of the City’s budget. Ongoing citizen concerns about the police budget stem from the City’s access to support from the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, Prairie View A&M University’s Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Precinct 3 Constable Herschel Smith and his reserves. In addition, the majority of Prairie View’s population lives on the University’s campus and crime rates in the City are low.
Several citizens commented on the City’s use of Crime Control and Prevention District funds to cover police operations. By law, those sales tax funds are to be applied to special law enforcement programs, which are outlined in Chapter 363 of the Local Government Code. City bookkeeper J.J. Johnson commented that the City of Prairie View, because of its size, received special consideration from the Texas Comptroller to apply the special Crime Control and Prevention District funds to operations. He had no explanation as to why no separate Board had existed to administer the funds for over a decade or why no audits existed, despite legal requirements to do so. Nor did Mayor Rowland or any council-member address why non-residents had been appointed to the newly formed Crime Control and Prevention Board
In other budget matters, the 2021-22 budget will support expansion of much-needed infrastructure improvements in the area of water and sewer. Residents in the Villa Capri subdivision continue to manage without access to City services and have high expectations for connectivity in 2022. Under debt service, the City will pay $500 thousand dollars towards debt service on loans and bonds from property taxes. The next City budget meeting will include adoption of the proposed tax rate.