A+ Bond Rating

There’s a lot to go over this week so first the good news.
For the first time in 20 years, the City of Devine has been assigned an A+ Bond Rating by S&P Global Ratings including a stable outlook for the future. Simply put, this allows the city to get better interest rates and funding opportunities for capital improvements, specifically our 2.5 million water storage tank by Warhorse Stadium.

Interestingly, the S&P report also notes that sales tax is the leading general fund revenue source at 41%, and slightly outperformed the budget; however, property taxes, at 24% of general fund revenue, came in $157,000 below projections. Fiscal 2024’s budget contains a surplus, and the city is trending positively at this point in the year.
The City of Devine also received its Annual Financial Audit Report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2023, and for the first time in 4 years no deficiencies were noted in our internal accounting controls which is great news. It needs to be noted that this audit does not measure the “effectiveness” of the budget, how or why money was spent, just that it was accounted for properly with no instances of noncompliance. A report of the effectiveness of the budget is due for presentation by our City Accountant at our regular monthly meeting on April 16.
The second workshop of our “Community as a Startup” economic development committee took place last Thursday and the great dialogue continued including: frontage road development of the city property on I-35; downtown revitalization; overall appearance of the city; and distribution business opportunities due to our proximity to I-35. I was surprised to learn that over 60% of commercial trucking traffic in the country goes to the port in Laredo.
Citizens or community partners that have a vested interest in Devine and its economic vitality, are encouraged to participate in the CASU survey and have their voice heard. Please visit our website CityofDevine.org or Facebook page “City of Devine City Hall” for details.
The April 8 eclipse event is almost here and thousands of people are expected to travel to and through Devine for a good spot to view the phenomenon. I read that Bandera is expecting over 100,000 and Kerrville is anticipating up to 500,000 and there is also a local event at Warhorse Stadium. In preparation of the anticipated heavy traffic, the city of Devine will be closing a considerable number of streets that intersect with Hwy 173 to thru traffic, open only to residents. The reasoning for the closures is to reroute traffic through lighted intersections and to minimize left-hand turns, the leading cause of major accidents. A full list of street closures is available on the city’s and Devine News websites and social media as well.
Now for the “not so good” news:
We allotted almost $500,000 in this year’s budget for street resurfacing, anticipating an inter-local agreement with Medina County, but it’s not looking very promising at this point. Commissioner Danny Lawler has been very cooperative and doing what he can to assist, but the county equipment is booked up for its own roads at least through July, so we will need to find other options. It is the clear intent of the City Council to pave as many streets as possible.
Our water and sewer systems are enterprise funds (city operated business) and ideally need to be self-sufficient- but they were $275,279 in the red last fiscal year and a rate increase is imminent. Normally, utility rate increases occur in gradual increments to soften the blow, but the City of Devine hasn’t had a rate increase since 2018.
At a city council meeting in September 2021, City Administrator John Vidaurri was quoted as saying “Four meetings ago, our financial advisor recommended a phased-in plan to gradually increase rates to keep up with costs,” but it never happened. So here we are in 2024.
For guidance on the issue, the city has enlisted the services of “Communities Unlimited”, a 501C3 that assists rural communities with populations under 10,000 with water rate studies. It is funded with state, federal and locally funded donations, therefore at no cost to the city, and uses the following criteria to make its recommendations: -The most recent approved budget -The water system billing financials and expenses from the last year -The most recent water rate structure fee schedule -The latest approved municipal audit Communities Unlimited expects to have its report ready by the end of April and City Administrator, David Jordan, has asked for a preliminary report that can be presented at the regular City Council meeting on April 16.