Council rejects CCAD budget
By LPR Staff
As the City of Lockhart struggles to manage its own budget, the Lockhart city council sent the message to the Caldwell County Appraisal District (CCAD) that belts need to be tightened across the board.
Last month the CCAD presented their proposed budget to each of Caldwell County”s taxing entities. After much dispute ove
r some budget items, the CCAD reworked their budget, finally sending a greatly-reduced proposal to the taxing entities for approval. The Lockhart city council, however, rejected the budget, believing that the CCAD still has some fat to trim.
“We need to be leery of them coming back midyear and saying “we need more money,”” said mayor James Bertram during discussion of the district”s budget. “Maybe some of the taxing entities will be able to accommodate that, but we can”t.”
Still, council members asked Bertram to return to the CCAD with requests to make additional cuts, including a $12,000 “contingency budget.”
“With the situation that we”re all in, I don”t think that they should have $12,000 just laying there,” said councilmember Paul Gomez. “I”d like for you to go back to them and ask them to remove that.”
At this time, the city cannot ask the district for additional changes. Their only option was to approve or reject the budget. If more than 50 percent of the taxing entities in the county reject the budget, the district will have to revise the numbers again.
The increases, around $60,000 over last year, have been attributed to the district”s separation for the Lockhart Independent School District, but questions still abound as to the figures. Training budgets, postage costs and legal fees were among the main points of concern.
The council voted unanimously to reject the budget. Other taxing entities will make their decisions later this month.
In other council business, the City of Lockhart will move forward with discussions with Caldwell County regarding centralizing the dispatching stations.
There are no firm plans for the centralization, but it is something that has been discussed between Lockhart and Caldwell County for some time. At this point, the City of Luling has declined to be involved in negotiations about the idea.
For the fourth year, the Lockhart Police Department will apply for funding under the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP). If the city receives the grant, it will provide additional funding for “enforcement and education activity targeting speed and occupant protection,” according to the grant”s main administrator, Lockhart PD sergeant Larry Simmons.
Councilmember Kenny Roland, a longtime critic of the STEP program, expressed concern that the enforcement program might be considered racially motivated by some members of the community. Roland said he has heard complaints about citizens being targeted for ticketing on the basis of race or for minor infractions.
“I”ve reviewed over 600 tickets,” said chief of police Frank Coggins. “I couldn”t find one, not one, that was for [less than five miles] under the speed limit.”
Coggins said most of the money for the STEP program comes from Federal funds. The city”s grant match is only about $4,500.
The grant application was approved contingent upon the approval of the matching funds in the 2005-2006 Fiscal Year budget.
In brief council business:
The council asked staff to move forward with discussions with Caldwell County to centralize the dispatching stations. At this time, the partnership would be between Lockhart and Caldwell County only, as the City of Luling has indicated that they are not interested in participating in a centralized dispatching system.
A contract in the amount of $21,149 was granted to MRR&M Commercial/Residential Roofing of Dale to seal, resurface and level the roof of the south and east wings of the old hospital building.
The Lockhart Police Department was approved for an Interlocal Cooperation Contract with the Texas Department of Public Safety. The contract is required in order for the police department to purchase forms, training materials and supplies needed for use in the Breath Testing Program and Laboratory Alcohol and Drug Testing Programs.
Flags are to be flown at half-mast until Sunday, Sept. 24.
Lockart”s new soccer fields on Maple Street will be dedicated on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.