By Kathi Bliss
A wide variety of routine business, much of it necessary before the City of Lockhart can embark upon a new budget year, crossed the podium at the Lockhart City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday.
Nine new ordinances, mostly related to utility costs and the implementation of the citizen-voted civil service provisions for police and firefighters, were approved and reviewed by the council. Five, each changing policies regarding sick leave, vacation time and personnel policies for firefighters and police officers, were required under state statute before civil service takes affect, according to Interim Civil Service Director Julie Bowerman.
In preparation for the new budget year, which includes the introduction of civil service provisions, the council approved the ordinances prior to their expected approval of the budget on Sept. 27.
Three new ordinances will govern the rates charged for water, trash and electrical service, all of which will increase in the coming budget year. City Manager Vance Rodgers said the increases were necessary to balance the budget. He also noted that customers will see changes in the look of utility bills in the near future.
“We’re trying to make sure that customers can see and understand on their bills exactly what they are paying for,” Rodgers said. He suggested the city is moving toward a “truth-in-billing” way of thinking, which will allow customers to see exactly what they are paying for, and how much of the charges are coming from the city as opposed” to ‘passthrough’ charges from LCRA, the city’s wholesale power provider.
Under the new budget, electric rates will increase from approximately $98 per 1000 kilowatt hours (Kwh), to approximately $100 for the average residential customer, effective in October. However, because LCRA is likely to change rates again in December, those rates may increase again before the end of the year.
Water rates will see only a minimal increase, rising from $27.25 for 4000 gallons to $27.75.
Finally, the cost for refuse services will rise for two months’ time, and then fall again when Central Texas Refuse (CTR), the current collection contractor, changes their collection policies in December. In October and November, residential trash collection rates will increase from $16.30 to $17.09 per month.
In December, CTR will provide residential customers with hand collection bins, and alter their collection schedule for once-a-week pickup. At that time, collection rates will fall to $16.15 per month.
Overall, customers can expect to see around a 3.8-percent increase to their monthly utility bills beginning in November.
In other business, the council held a second public hearing to discuss the proposed budget and tax rate increases.
After last week’s first hearing went unattended, several members of the community attended the meeting to voice their views on the budget and the tax rates.
“I want to thank you all for the job you do,” said former mayor Ray Sanders. “I know from experience that it’s not an easy job. Still I support the tax increase you are proposing because the city services are so well supported by taxes. But you need to do whatever you can to maintain the quality of life here.”
“I appreciate my services,” said Lockhart resident and schoolteacher Margaret Groves. “But our taxes keep going up and up and are getting harder to afford, so I really just wish you’d think about not raising them again.”
The proposed tax rate increase will bring taxes from 63.5 cents per $100 of valuation to 70.74 cents per $100.
The council will vote on the tax rate and budget during a special meeting to be held on Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room of Lockhart City Hall. Two councilmembers, District Three representative Lew White and District Four representative Michael Sanders both said they will not be able to attend the special meeting, but asked that their support of the proposed tax rates and budget be noted.
In brief council news:
Working with the Parks and Recreation Board and the Lockhart soccer association, the council agreed to rename the Maple Street Sports Complex the Cpl. Jason K. LaFleur Sports Complex. LaFleur, a graduate of Lockhart High and life-long soccer player, was killed in action in Iraq in August.
The position of “city marshal” will be created at the Lockhart Municipal Court in the coming budget year. The marshal will act as bailiff for the court and be responsible for warrant service and collection.
They discussed a joint venture with Creedmore Maha Water Supply which could have Lockhart selling water to the rural water district for the next several years.
The Lockhart City Council has regularly scheduled meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room at Lockhart City Hall. Meetings are open to the public and are also televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.