City eyes cutting LPD staff
By LPR Staff
In their continuing struggle to balance a hefty budget, the Lockhart City Council examined the last resort plan of downsizing city departments on Tuesday.
According to a report prepared by Lockhart City Manager Clovia English, the city”s three largest departments are the emergency services departments (police, fire and E
MS). At the council”s request, English compared the departments to other area departments in an effort to analyze their efficiency and determine if and where cuts might be made.
“We surveyed our largest departments to see if we were in line with other cities of similar size and situation,” she said. The result of the study indicated that EMS was in line, while the fire department is behind in staffing, and the police department is “a little heavy.”
The report, suggested that cutting four positions from the Lockhart Police Department would solve the city”s immediate budget crisis – the fact that the council must pass a balanced budget, and they must do so this week.
“I think this is an issue of us holding our own feet to the fire in fiscal responsibility,” Mayor James Bertram said. “If we are not running as lean as we can, it is our responsibility to get ourselves lean.”
The council has avoided cutting any staffing positions, despite the economic downturn in the last several years. However, after making all of the adjustments and cuts they felt they could, the councilmembers found themselves with a deficit budget of more than $150,000.
“We”ve held off [on staffing reductions] ever since the economy went south,” said councilmember Kenny Roland. “But I think it”s staring us in the face now. I think it”s inevitable.”
Councilmembers Lew White and Dick Wieland disagreed.
“This is a pretty radical move, with no documentation to back it up except a comparison,” White said. “I”m more inclined to keep those positions even if it means going into our savings a little more.”
The remaining councilmembers, (Roland, Bertram, Paul Gomez and Frank Estrada) voiced grudging support for the staffing reductions.
In an opposite twist, the council agreed to partner with the Lockhart Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) to provide an assistant to Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin.
“We budgeted $14,700 for “contract work” if that need arises and that person is willing to come to help,” said Lew White, speaking not as a councilmember but in his capacity as chair of the LEDC. The budget the corporation presented to the council on Tuesday included several projects for Sandra Mauldin which would require additional staffing with economic development experience. To facilitate that position, the corporation offered to finance a portion of the position.
“We don”t want to get into funding annual salaries with this money,” White said. “We”d prefer to keep using the money for things like Serta and the tortilla factory.” Nonetheless, the corporation held to the belief that the community would be best served if additional staff was brought into the Economic Development department, if only on a part-time, contractual basis.
The council unanimously supported the LEDC”s position, provided the corporation continues to provide the funds for the assistant.
In other council business:
Next year”s budget requirements called for amendments to both ambulance service fees and water and sewer fees.
As stated in a resolution passed on Tuesday, ambulance fees will change effective Oct. 1, 2005. In the future, an ambulance transport will cost $600, with a $9 per mile charge. “Treat and release” situations will cost between $50 and $125, depending upon the level of care required.
In the water and wastewater billing department, some discounts have been terminated, as have electric utility discounts.
Beginning with the October billing cycle, senior discounts for water, sewer and electric utilities will be removed. Senior discounts for garbage collection remain in effect. Further, water and sewer increases will take effect in October.
In brief council news:
The council nominated Colleen Rowland to serve on the Caldwell County Appraisal District board of directors.
The city agreed to change the zoning for a parcel of property on San Antonio Street to from Commercial Medium Density to Residential Medium Density. Because it is unclear why the property”s zoning was changed, the council also agreed to refund the fee the property owner paid to request the change.
As required by the FY 2005-2006 budget, the fee structures regarding airport hangar rental and animal licensing, boarding, adoption and euthanasia fees have been increased.