SUGAR LAND, Texas - Sugar Land City Council has voted and approved a $1.58 million budget cut for 2018 which includes canceling the New Year's Eve and 4th of July celebrations.
However, one item was saved from the chopping block after the community showed up to protest: closing the city's only public pool.
For the past 47 years, Sugar Land kids have been proud to be Sugar Land Sharks, including 10-year-old Libby Saludis, part of the swim team that has met at the public pool since the beginning. But for the first time in almost five decades the Sharks faced having no where to meet.
"My mom said they're just going to close it," Libby explained. Her response to mom, "And they're not going to do anything?! What?!"
The City says the cuts are needed to address lower than budgeted sales tax and property tax revenues.
"In each of the four months since the budget was filed, the City experienced lower than projected sales tax collections," explained Doug Adolf, Sugar Land's public information officer. "The fiscal year 2018 sales tax estimate was based on zero growth from 2017 estimates. The actual revenue came in lower than anticipated for the last three months of the fiscal year. The main sectors that are down are information, natural resources and wholesale – all highly influenced by the oil and gas sector."
Brandon Lasser, the Sharks' vice president, sprang into action when he heard the pool would likely close. He, along with dozens of others called, sent emails then showed up, begging council to reconsider -- and it did.
"Our Sugar Land Sharks organization, to their credit, rallied folks," said Mayor Joe Zimmerman. "They rallied the team, they rallied the kids, they came before us and made a very impassioned plea."
Although the pool was saved, other community favorites were not like the New Year's Eve celebration at Town Center and the 4th of July celebration. Below are the programs, events and services that have been cut.
- Reduce employee merit pool from 3 percent to 2 percent: $316,000
- Elimination of two full-time positions: $190,000
- Reduce the travel & training budget by 10 percent, providing $930 per employee to maintain certifications, continuing education and employee development: $72,000
- Eliminate funding for an external user fee study: $35,000
- Reduce employee recognition programs: $20,000
- Eliminate hosting of inter-governmental groups in the city’s suites: $12,000
- Eliminate funding for Impact Player Partners reception: $5,000
- Eliminate outside photography/videography for events: $4,000
- Eliminate support for Fort Bend TREK express run by Fort Bend County: $70,000
- Reduce payments to in-city MUDs to reflect the adopted tax rate: $42,000
- Reduce contingency funding from .5 percent to .25 percent of the budget: $200,000
- Eliminate the New Year’s Eve event in Town Square: $118,000
- Eliminate the fourth of July event, the Star Spangled Spectacular: $94,000
- Eliminate the annual State of the City event: $25,000
- Eliminate printing and mailing of the quarterly newsletter, Sugar Land Today, and the city calendar: $105,00
- Eliminate supplemental street sweeping on state roadways: $85,000
- Reduce mulching & fertilizer of bed plantings in city rights of way: $69,000
- Reduce frequency of tractor mowing along rights of way: $31,000
- Reduce service in parks including less frequent mowing and pressure washing of parks; reduced landscape, litter pickup and custodial services; eliminating maintenance contracts and restructuring the senior holiday gala event: $50,000