With a staff of 3,900 employees, the state of the city of Corpus Christi is "strong" with every department of the city moving forward, according to Mayor Paulette Guajardo.
"I am proud to report to you that we are in a new and unprecedented era of progress of Corpus Christi's future," she said. "Together with our City Council and city manager, we will continue to work towards the prosperity of our city."
Guajardo gave her second State of the City address Thursday at the American Bank Center. The event was attended by more than 1,000 people, many of whom were business owners or leaders in the energy and hospitality industries.
The annual State of the City event was sponsored by the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce.
Here are the key takeaways:
Budget and finance
City staff has developed a $1.4 billion city budget proposal for fiscal year 2023. Under the proposal, the city's property tax rate would remain the same at 0.64 cents per $100 value, but property taxes are slated to increase due to higher appraisal values.
The city is projected to receive $6 million more in property taxes in fiscal year 2023 compared to fiscal year 2022. Appraisal values have increased this year by 20% to 24% for residential properties and 26% to 30% for commercial properties. Ad valorem tax growth is projected to grow by 1.83% for new growth and 11.52% for reappraisals.
City staff have also developed a $125 million bond program proposal for 2022 that will go before voters during the city election Nov. 8. The program would fund 32 projects and include $92.5 million for streets, $20 million for parks, $10 million for public safety and $2.5 million for La Retama Library.
All of the projects from the $75 million bond 2020 program are in design or under construction.
Ratings given to the city on the general obligation and the utility revenue bonds are in the high-grade category. Moody's, Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings and Fitch have reaffirmed the city’s general obligation bond ratings of Aa2, AA and AA, respectively, along with the city’s utility revenue bond ratings of Aa3, AA- and AA-, respectively, all with a stable outlook.
"This keeps interest rates low, and that of course saves taxpayer dollars," Guajardo said. "Also noteworthy is that the city's credit rating has increased three times since City Manager Peter Zanoni was appointed by the council in 2019."
The fiscal year 2021 comprehensive annual financial report by external auditors gave the city the "highest audit opinion that can be issued," she said.
One of Guajardo's top priorities is fixing Corpus Christi's streets. Over the past three years the city has invested $325 million for street maintenance and reconstruction. Right now there are 36 street construction projects throughout the city. A significant reconstruction project was completed this spring: the $10.5 million overhaul of Ocean Drive, which hadn't been repaired in 48 years.
"We know that we have a significant amount of work in front of us. For far too long, the city of Corpus Christi delayed maintenance, and our streets and parks fell into disrepair," Guajardo said. "We will not go back to those days. We will move forward to continue to rebuild, to repair and to refocus our priorities to build upon our successes."
The city has committed $4.7 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to address flooding of Oso Creek. The city has also allocated $5 million from federal stimulus funding to address drainage across the city.
The $2.2 million 311 call center was launched last month. Corpus Christi residents can call 311 to report non-emergencies or ask questions about city services.
The city continues to pursue building a desalination plant, which would be a "non-interruptible" water supply.
"There is nothing more important to me today than securing a long-term water source," Guajardo said. "I am laser focused on building seawater desalination for our future."
In what seemed to be a reference to the Port of Corpus Christi's competing efforts to establish desalination plants, Guajardo said the city, as the sole water provider for nearly 500,000 customers in the region, is best poised to pursue desalination as a water source.
The city has been the regional water supplier for 129 years, she said.
The city plans to use a $222.5 million State Water Implementation Fund for Texas loan from the Texas Water Development Board to build a plant in the Inner Harbor of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, in Corpus Christi Bay. The city is also looking to build a secondary plant at La Quinta Channel.
The city submitted water rights and Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit applications for both sites with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in January 2020.
In the coming weeks, city staff plans to bring a $5.4 million real estate contract to City Council to purchase 12.5 acres of property and 11 acres of easements on which the Inner Harbor plant would be built. The city is buying the land from Flint Hills Resources Corpus Christi, LLC.
Since 2017, the city has invested more than $135 million to replace aging water lines. A proposed capital improvement program includes a long-range water supply investment of more than $174 million.
"It makes me exceptionally proud to share that our water system is rated superior by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality," Guajardo said.
As part of the 2023 budget, the city is developing an economic development department that would work collaboratively with the Corpus Christi Economic Development Corp. This fiscal year, the corporation has ushered in $1.1 billion worth of new projects to the area, creating 433 jobs with more than $25 million in new wages.
The Steel Dynamics plant near Sinton came online this year and was a $3 billion capital investment that brought 590 jobs.
ArcelorMittal Texas HBI, Gulf Coast Growth Ventures and Cheniere Energy are entering into the city's industrial district, which will bring more than $147 million in property taxes to the city over 10 years and more than $800 million in 20 years.
The Port of Corpus Christi has exceeded the demands of maritime commerce with President Joe Biden's proposed funding of $157 million. The Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project is slated for completion in late 2023.
James Avery chose Corpus Christi for its latest manufacturing facility, a 41,000-square-foot Artisan Center, which will provide more than 200 jobs.
Corpus Christi International Airport
The city is receiving an air service development grant of $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grant will be used to help secure nonstop flights to Denver and Las Vegas.
Last month, Guajardo challenged the city manager and the Crime Control District to identify funding to hire 25 more police officers. The 2023 budget proposal meets that challenge. With the hiring of 25 more officers, the police force would total 491.
"This will be the largest number of hired officers in the history of the city of Corpus Christi," Guajardo said.
In March, the police academy graduated 41 cadets, which was the largest class in the history of the Corpus Christi Police Department.
The design is 90% complete for the city's new Police Training Academy, and construction is slated to begin this fall. The academy is designed to be 36,760 square feet and located at Del Mar College's new Oso Creek Campus.
The fire department has 464 firefighters, and for the first time in decades, the department has achieved full staffing.
Construction is set to begin this fall on the new fire station No. 3 on Morgan Avenue that will replace the current one.
In recent months, the city has installed 11 new playground units in parks across the city. A Parks and Recreation 10-year master plan has been developed, and master plans are being created for Labonte, Cole and Bill Witt parks.
Public health district
Last fall, City Council voted to end the partnership with Nueces County to jointly manage the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District.
In March, the city took over control of the health district, negotiating a contract with the county to continue providing services to residents outside the city.
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Here are the main takeaways of Corpus Christi's 2022 State of the City