City raises taxes, cuts jobs
By LPR Staff
In a special-called meeting on Thursday, Sept. 22, the Lockhart City Council passed an increased tax rate and what councilmembers called a “lean budget.”
Despite concern from a number of citizens and police officers, and against the wishes of councilmembers Lew White and Dick Weiland, the city will cut four positions fro
m the Lockhart Police Department as they strive to achieve a balanced budget for the coming fiscal year.
According to city manager Clovia English, the police department bore the brunt of the budget cuts because other departments are already running on “skeleton crews.”
“If you cut an arm of the skeleton, you”re going to cripple it,” she said. “Other departments have sacrificed and sacrificed so that department could grow… Now, it”s their turn to sacrifice.”
English suggested that the department was the only one in the city that could withstand personnel cuts, and that police would have to “learn to do more with less.” Her suggestions included doing away with department “niceties,” including community programs such as National Night Out.
Finance Director John Washburn indicated that the figure used to balance the budget, some $124,000 removed from the police department, was based upon “average departmental salaries” after the reduction of four positions. Neither Washburn nor English presented a concrete plan as to which positions would be cut from the police force.
White passionately disagreed with English”s assessment of staffing situations.
“To center the hit all in one department just doesn”t make any sense,” he said. “Last year, Frank assured us that we were properly staffed, and all of a sudden, we have fat? I see some other things in the budget we can trade if we have to trade a policeman”s salary.”
Weiland agreed with White, indicating that while he agreed that spending should be controlled, he couldn”t see a compelling reason to cut police staff.
While other areas of the approved budget saw substantial cuts, only Streets and Right-of-Way, with a cut of more than $235,000 and “non-departmental expenses,” with a $180,000 reduction, were harder-hit than the police department.
Departmental increases included a 13 percent increase, to the tune of nearly $23,000, in the city council budget, and a 46 percent increase (over $35,000) in the economic development budget. The fire department saw $184,000 in increases as part of a commitment by the council to bring firefighter salaries in line with those offered around the state. A new line item in this year”s budget, Information Systems, was introduced at a cost of over $114,000.
All told, the city budget calls for revenues of $23.3 million and expenditures of $24.2 million for the next fiscal year.
The budget passed 4-2, with both White and Weiland voting against the proposed budget.
To fund the budget, the city required a tax-rate increase of 4.5 percent. The city”s tax rate for the next fiscal year will be a total of .6150 per $100 of valuation.