The Burnet Economic Development Corp. unanimously approved its 2020-21 budget at its regular meeting Aug. 13. The EDC’s coffers for the coming year have benefited from rising sales-tax revenues, but, out of caution for what COVID-19 will bring in the year to come, the 2020-21 budget will remain largely similar to the previous year’s.
“Despite COVID, our sales-tax numbers continue to excel,” Burnet City Manager David Vaughn said. “We thought there wasn’t going to be as much of a decline because of COVID. We didn’t think it was going to be as bad as people were predicting. We never guessed it would climb.
“Last year this month, our tax collection was $220,000,” Vaughn added. “This year, it was $279,000. So, that’s substantial.”
Sales-tax revenues are split between the EDC and the city with 25 percent going to the former and 75 percent going to the latter.
The budget includes a 2 percent increase. Usually, annual budgetary increases for the EDC vary from 2 percent to 8 percent. Two percent was chosen in light of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
One negative impact to the EDC’s coffers is the decrease in interest rates. Interest revenues, therefore, are anticipated to decrease substantially in the coming year.
The EDC also gave $50,000 in assistance to the Burnet Chamber of Commerce after the Bluebonnet Festival was canceled. The festival draws a large number of visitors and residents and pumps a lot of money into the local economy.
“That put a pretty hefty dent in our bank account, so we’re not likely going to be in a position to do that next year should Bluebonnet get canceled again,” Vaughn said.
Despite that unexpected expenditure, the EDC held its festival budget to $125,000 and had a revenue of $90,000 from those events.
“No one knows what COVID is going to look like next year, but, hopefully, it’s closer to normal,” Vaughn added.
Also, a $10,000 sum was set aside for possible maintenance and upkeep expenditures for the Badger Building project, which is largely complete as of August. Future costs include the renovation of an adjacent parking lot to the building.
Currently, the EDC leases the Badger Building to Wedding Oak Winery.
Much of the EDC money is being directed toward a 13.5-acre swath of land adjacent to U.S. 281 South at Houston Clinton Drive. The EDC purchased the property in 2019 for about $325,000. The area has the second-highest traffic count in Burnet, making it attractive for retail, restaurants, or other development.
“We were able to buy it at a very reasonable price,” Vaughn said. “The property had a lot of floodplain and access issues. While the land was inexpensive, it’s going to cost a lot to address those problems.”
The 2019-20 budget included major expenditures, such as the $300,000 assistance program for small businesses the EDC set up in response to COVID-19. While the program will not receive more money in 2020-21, Vaughn praised its success.
“It’s been fantastic,” he said. “I think that program is the big reason we’re not seeing the number of business closures that many communities are.”