FARMERS BRANCH ~ Following the October 1 start to the new fiscal year, Farmers Branch City Manager Charles S. Cox and his staff have embarked on executing the 2016-2017 fiscal year, $97 million City budget. Coming in about 1 percent lower than the previous fiscal year, the new budget includes a flat City property tax rate of 60.22 cents for every $100 of valuation, which continues to be one of the lowest rates in Dallas county. The new budget does include a 9 percent increase in water and sewer rates. This is required to offset rising costs for treated water from the City's supplier, Dallas Water Utilities, as well as increased expenses for wastewater treatment from the Trinity River Authority. A residential water consumer, using 10,000 gallons of water, is expected to see an increase of $7.91 on their monthly bill. To reduce attrition, increase employee retention and attract exceptional job applicants to the Farmers Branch staff, the budget includes a 5 percent increase to all employee pay ranges, to adopt a philosophy of 5 percent over median salaries of comparable positions in other cities. Only three new positions were added, including an administrative assistant in Building Inspection, a Special Projects Manager in Solid Waste and a Marketing Specialist for Special Events. Capital Improvement Program projects for this budget include a continuation of the 10-year street bond program, Justice Center security upgrades, southbound Marsh Lane bridge replacement, joint Fire Training facility construction, Park & Trail improvements, utility system improvements and upgrades to the Farmers Market area. Fixed asset purchases for this year will include a new ladder truck for the Fire Department, a number of replacement Police vehicles, Library materials, new City monument signage and an outdoor digital marquee. A Council-appointed Citizen Bond Committee is currently developing a Quality of Life bond package that they will recommend to the City Council in the near future. More information on that will be brought forward as it is made available.