Tyler picks contract search firm to find city manager

Published on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 23:53 - Written by KELLY GOOCH

kgooch@tylerpaper.com

The city of Tyler will pursue a contract with Keller-based Strategic Government Resources to help conduct a search for the next city manager.

On Aug. 1, City Manager Mark McDaniel announced that he was resigning and taking an assistant city manager position with the city of Dallas.

Then on Aug. 13, the same day that Assistant City Manager and Communications Director Susan Guthrie was named interim city manager, the council directed staff to initiate a search to engage an executive search firm to assist with the recruitment of a permanent city manager, Human Resources Director ReNissa Wade said.

She said an evaluation committee consisting of Mayor Martin Heines, Councilman Darryl Bowdre and Councilman Mark Whatley was formed, and members reviewed various firms before interviewing four.

Bowdre said the firms that were interviewed were diversified in size, but the committee was able to get a good look at what services they offer.

“I appreciate being involved in that process and knowing what all they will do for us,” he said Wednesday, before the City Council gave the go-ahead for staff to negotiate a professional services contract with Strategic Government Resources.

Of the four firms interviewed, SGR stood out, Martin said.

He said the firm has a history with the city, and the firm’s CEO has expressed interest in being the case manager for this project. He said Tyler would be one of two searches the CEO would personally handle.

“He is very excited about the opportunity of working with the city of Tyler, and we share that excitement with him,” Heines said.

He said cost will be negotiated with city staff, but the firms that were interviewed offered about $18,000 to $20,000 for the core cost and then expenses after that range from $5,000 to $6,000.

He said because the firms were all similar in cost, the most important thing was to have the right fit for the community.

As far as timing, he said firms have estimated that the search process will take about four months.

However, the city doesn’t want to be too specific with timelines, and he wants the process to be thorough and as methodical as possible, Heines said.

“I’m going to do the very best I can to make sure I’m communicating to the public what we’re doing,” he said.

Whatley said it has been determined that in the end, Tyler will have a large pool of well-qualified candidates and is going to be able to get a very good city manager out of this process.

PUBLIC HEARING

Also on Wednesday, the first public hearing took place on the city’s proposed budget and proposed property tax rate for next fiscal year.

One individual, Larry Meckley, of Tyler, spoke during the public hearing and expressed concern about the city’s priorities.

Tyler’s proposed 2014-15 budget of $104.2 million calls for keeping the current tax rate at 22 cents, but increased revenues from new construction and higher property values will allow it to fund new positions, street maintenance, pay increases and improvements at Glass Recreation Center.

The proposed budget also includes a 5 percent rate increase for water and wastewater; an increase in parking fees and improvements to the departure lounge at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport; additional adaptive control systems and flashing yellow arrows for traffic; and software, are among items scheduled.

“Because of the slight growth in property values, sales tax revenues and the work our employees have done to enhance efficiency and productivity, we are able to keep Tyler’s tax rate at 22 cents per $100 valuation,” McDaniel said in a previous statement. “This rate is one of the lowest municipal tax rates in Texas, which helps stimulate business and residential growth.”

With a tax rate of 22 cents, the owner of a home valued at $150,000 would pay about $330 per household per year, or $27.50 per month.

As far as sales tax collections, the city is projecting a 4 percent growth, following the correction for large one-time audit adjustments that have occurred in the 2013-14 fiscal year, according to a city presentation.

Heines previously said the change in taxable values is similar to the 2013-14 fiscal year. The percent change in taxable values for that year is 2.5 percent, while the percent change for the 2014-15 fiscal year is 2.6 percent. With the new taxable values, 1 cent of Tylers tax rate generates $712,369 in revenue.

There is the proposed 5 percent increase for water and wastewater, which the city attributes to about $12 million of capital investment needed in the water system in the coming year, according to a previous news release.

Water customers who use an average of 10,000 gallons of water per month would see a $3.04 increase.

“Unlike many other communities, Tyler pays cash for many infrastructure projects even in the Water Utilities Fund,” McDaniel said. “We are an older city with an aging water system, so we must continue to keep pace with rising costs and infrastructure needs.”

Heines echoed McDaniel earlier this month, saying, “As we have an aging system, I think it’s critical we focus in and make sure we’re doing the necessary improvements so we don’t get into long-term problems.”

McDaniel previously said there is a 4.9 percent increase in proposed expenditures for the general fund, and 3.5 percent is related to public safety.

He said earlier this month that the city purchased new software for police/fire, which should enable them to do a better job in the field and at the station in a variety of ways.

McDaniel previously said software for record keeping, as well as full funding for four community resource officers, also is included in the proposed budget.

According to a previous news release, the proposed 2014-15 budget also includes $450,000 for the Seal Coat Program to maintain streets, as well as two new traffic positions - a signal technician and a marker technician.

McDaniel previously said more adaptive control systems and flashing yellow arrows also are proposed for traffic management.

Additionally, a brick street study is part of the proposed budget.

Also proposed in the budget is extending the outreach program ReNEW.

Ms. Guthrie said earlier this month that ReNEW involves a concentrated effort to clean in a low-to-moderate income area, and the additional funding allows the city to maybe target other areas that are declining.

Additionally, up to 4 percent pay increases are recommended for police and fire employees and zero to 4 percent performance-based pay increases are recommended for all other staff, earlier information said.

“Due to rising health care costs, we are raising family health care premiums by 5 percent,” McDaniel said in a previous news release. “Employees can cut the additional cost in half if they choose to participate in a wellness plan designed to lower claims costs.”

Ms. Guthrie previously pointed out that the city s budget is separate from the half-cent sales tax budget, which was adopted earlier this summer.

Projects planned for next fiscal year for the half-cent budget include the $17.9 million Cumberland Road project, the $3.3 million South Tyler Police Substation, $1.6 million for citywide sidewalk improvements and $4 million for annual pavement enhancement on about 55 lane miles of city streets, according to the city.

The next public hearing will take place at the Sept. 10 City Council meeting. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. at Tyler City Hall, 212 N. Bonner Ave. The proposed budget and proposed tax rate are scheduled for adoption on Sept. 24.

AWARD

In other budget-related news, it was announced Wednesday that the city has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for its fiscal year 2013-14 budget document.

The recognition comes from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.

City of Tyler Chief Financial Officer Keidric Trimble said receiving the prestigious award is a collaborative effort that involves accounting staff, the budget committee and support from the City Council.

“This award is not just an award for the accounting department. It’s a city of Tyler award, and it’s something to be proud of,” Trimble said.

He said an impartial panel judged the budget document, looking at things like, “Does it tell our financial story?” and “Is it a communication device?”

He said the panel looks to make sure that it’s a well-rounded document, and that it’s a document that people would want to read.

According to a news release, Tyler’s budget document has received this recognition for eight consecutive years.