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Council assigns tax revenues

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

While representatives from several local organizations waited, the Lockhart city council grappled with a question: what should be done with revenues from the hotel/motel tax?
Five organizations, the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce, the Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Gaslight Theater, the Lockhart Communit

y Theater and the Caldwell County Museum all made requests last month for a share of the nearly $40,000 pie. Under state mandate, there is a cap on the amount of funds the city can donate to the arts. However, the chambers of commerce each requested upwards of 75 percent of the funds, each organization claiming that their events drew the majority of tourists to Lockhart.
“Three events per year is quite a bit of attraction to the city,” said Hispanic Chamber president Paul Martinez. “I know that many people come just for these events, and if we had sufficient funds, we could advertise more and bring even more heads into beds.”
Wayne Bock, president of the Lockhart Chamber, claimed, in turn, that the Lockhart Chamber provided the lions share of tourist service.
“Between the time that we spend in our office, the event that we do and the promotional materials and maps that we print,” Bock said, “the information we get from the hotels is that 90 percent of their business is from [our efforts].”
Interim finance director Stephanie House suggested that the organizations work together to create a survey for the hotels that would ask guests what brought them to Lockhart for an overnight stay. The funds in question are a direct result of the taxes paid by local hotels, and are required to be invested back into the community to promote tourism and the hotel industry.
Each of the councilmembers had different views on how the funds should be used. Frank Estrada suggested that the money saved for the purchase or construction of a civic center. Lew White suggested that the council focus specifically on the organizations that drive tourism.
Finally, Councilmember Paul Gomez moved to allocate the same percentage of the funds to each organization as they received last year. His motion passed 5-1, with White disagreeing. Councilmember Kenny Roland was absent from the meeting due to an illness.
The final distribution of the funds will be: Lockhart Chamber of Commerce – 60.7 percent; Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – 20.46 percent; Lockhart Community Theater – 7.5 percent; Gaslight Theater – 7.5 percent; and Caldwell County Museum – 3.84 percent.
In preparation for the May, 2005 election, the council heard a presentation from the Charter Review Commission suggesting a special election asking the community to vote on eight revisions to Lockhart”s charter.
The revisions cover a wide variety of topics from the appointment of the city attorney to residency requirements for city council members.
A revision regarding municipal judges was removed by the council, leaving seven items on the ballot for May”s special election. In brief, the propositions are:
Prop. 1: An amendment to clarify the qualifications of city council members, including residency, age and voter requirements;
Prop. 2: An amendment to remove the requirement that the city attorney is a practicing attorney in the city;
Prop. 3 and 4: Amendments to prohibit ordinances or resolutions that levy taxes, appropriate money, zone property, set utility rates or violate United States or Texas Law from voter-initiated legislation or referendum and to provide for special elections on certain initiated ordinances;
Prop. 5: An amendment to prohibit ordinances, resolutions or measures that levy taxes, appropriate money or set public utility rates from voluntary submission to popular vote by the city council;
Prop. 6: An amendment to provide for property tax assessment by a city-appointed assessor-collector; and
Prop. 7: An amendment to delete the requirement that the charter commission meet in January of each odd-numbered year.
When the official ballot is released, the Post-Register will provide in-depth information on each of these propositions, in an effort to help our readers make informed choices.
In brief council news:
A suggestion by City Planner Dan Gibson requesting changes to the Subdivision Requirements in the Code of Ordinances was tabled pending additional research.
Todd Pruitt with Patillo, Brown & Hill presented a report on the city”s annual audit. With few exceptions, the city”s finances are in compliance with the audit”s standards.
The council is again calling for volunteers to serve on a variety of boards and commissions. Anyone interested in serving should contact Connie Ortiz at City Hall or call 398-3461.

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