Water rates or taxes?
Lockhart City Council eyes increases to offset shortfalls
By Miranda Rogers
Lockhart residents stand to see either an increase in their property taxes, or an increase in their water rates, based on discussions amongst the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday evening.
A budget shortfall of $75,000 for the coming fiscal year was the
result of significant changes in property valuations on the city’s tax roll, according to Finance Director Jeff Hinson. In an effort to offset that shortfall, the council is considering a number of options, most notably a two-cent tax increase, or an increase in water rates for those customers who “use the most.”
Some members of the council argued on Tuesday that even the slightest increase in taxes would be an undue burden on Lockhart residents, and sought other methods to make up the difference. One such option suggested and agreed to by the three newest members of the council, along with veteran councilmember and mayoral candidate Richard Banks, is an increase to water rates for some customers.
Hinson was seeking more information on Wednesday morning as to where those councilmembers hoped to draw the threshold line, and said the notion would be revisited during a special budget meeting of the Lockhart City Council on Thursday, Aug. 18, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
In a preliminary vote, however, Banks, along with Angie Gonzales-Sanchez, Juan Mendoza and John Castillo voted against the tax increase and to find other ways to generate revenue, while Mayor Ray Sanders, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Gomez and veteran councilmember Lew White voted in favor of the increase.
In other business, Lockhart State Park representative J. Hess approached the council to discuss plans for an improvement project at Lockhart State Park.
The park development, a collaboraton including input and funding from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), City of Lockhart, Caldwell County, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative (BEC), would include 22 additional campsites and restroom facilities to afford a longer stay for more campers during the winter. Preliminary drawings are in place, and TPWD is pursuing any donations to the park. They invite interested members of the public to voice their opinions on the growth of the campsites; the additions are expected to help increase revenues and keep the park open and viable.
In other news of city growth, Lockhart contains one of the five Activity Centers that will act as a Sustainable Places Project Demonstration Sites, a program funded by the HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant of $3.7 million towards the Capital Area Texas Sustainability Consortium.
The “Central Lockhart Enhancement Project” is a consulting service that will develop over a two year period of time, and will offer planning services and guidance in regards to various opportunities of housing choices, land development, environmental quality, economic development and more. The enhancement project included a “wish-list” of ideas from community input that included things like improved handicap access, benches, bicycle facilities, public art and gardens, pedestrian crossing improvements, activities for all age groups and much more. The revitalization effort chose central Lockhart for the demonstration site due to various potential candidates for redevelopment, while remaining close to the central business district and existing recreational facilities. The grant will rely on community interest, and several letters of suppor have been included with the application.
In other news, there has been speculation that relations with Caldwell County with regard to EMS management may be floundering, due to projected losses of $233,000 each for the City of Lockhart and Caldwell County. Much of the loss is due to bill collections that some people have not paying, which may lead Lockhart to sever their relationship with collection company, who some members of the council believe are not doing all they can to collect outstanding bills.
Members of the council voiced their desire to get a unified system with EMS, and have everyone figure out what the problems are instead of “committing financial suicide.”
They expressed concern that dispatching problems and communication problems may ensue if EMS services are split again, and could become a “complete nightmare.”
The discussion was brought about by a recent decision by Caldwell County to seek a Request for Proposal for EMS services, which have historically been shared. Under current agreements, the Cities of Lockhart and Luling each manage EMS services, and the County helps to offset the cost by covering one-half of the operational expenses for each entity.
County Judge Tom Bonn suggested recently that the county should investigate a “countywide” EMS service and sever those agreements. However, according to Mayor Ray Sanders, Bonn, who is out of town on a vacation, offered assurances that the county’s budget for the coming fiscal year does include payment for the previously-agreed EMS services.
In brief news:
The rescheduled Fourth of July Fireworks show that was to take place on Labor Day has been canceled until further notice because of the pressures of the ongoing drought, according to City Manager Vance Rodgers. He said the city has been considering a laser light show for that event instead.
A zoning change requested by David Dalton has been made regarded the pursuit to expand a home on a dwelling that is nonconforming under the current commercial zoning. It has been considered to change the Official Zoning Map to allow for alterations and improvements upon this unit, which would result in a simple realigning of existing zoning boundary. Additionally, there is a mixture of uses in the area, and rezoning would result in benefit.
Rodgers also reminded the public that watering restrictions are continuing due to the lack of rain. Outside watering is limited to the hours between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m., two days per week. Residential addresses ending in even numbers are scheduled for watering on Thursdays and Sundays. Those ending in odd numbers may water on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and commercial and multifamily properties are scheduled on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The Lockhart City Council holds regular meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall. An hour-long worksession precedes each meeting, and begins at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are also televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.
(Additional information courtesy of LPR Staff)