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BERTRAM — City Council members tightened their proverbial belts to pay the difference in the bid and a loan for a sewer plant expansion project in Bertram.

The city has been working toward securing funds for expanding its wastewater treatment facility for more than five years. The original engineer’s estimate, on which the city’s $507,000 USDA loan was based, is $118,000 short of the winning bid.

Bertram Mayor Dickie Allen said the city will try to pay for the difference out of pocket this year to avoid raising taxes or seeking another type of loan.

Austin Engineering submitted a winning bid of $530,585.70, Allen said. The amount did not include engineering or other costs, however.

“This City Council deserves a lot of credit because we have cut a lot of things,” Allen said. “If they hadn’t done some things last year, we wouldn’t have the money to do this.”

Also during the special Sept. 17 meeting, the council passed the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year. Allen said the rate of 0.481 per $100 valuation is the same as last year for taxpayers.

“The appraised value of properties went down a little bit,” he said. “So we’ll be taking in a little bit less money.”