City plans for 3.8-cent tax hike
By LPR Staff
Primarily to address changes in emergency services pay plans and staffing levels and to continue efforts to repair the city”s streets, the Lockhart City Council agreed on Tuesday to take steps toward a 3.8-cent tax increase for the coming fiscal year.
After several months of budget workshops and hearing input from variou
s members of the city staff, the council took one step closer to adopting a city budget for next year. One of the primary sources for revenue for that budget, of course, is property taxes.
The combined tax rate for the current budget year is .6350, which includes a rate of .1644 per $100 of valuation for debt services and .5048 for maintenance and operations, the bulk of the City”s budget. This year, the City proposes to maintain the debt service rate, but increase maintenance and operations to .5430. The difference, according to City Finance Manager Jeff Hinson, will be around $6 per month for a homeowner with property valued at $100,000.
A portion of the increase may be attributed to required changes in the pay for the fire and police departments under the newly-enacted civil service provisions.
According to City Manager Vance Rodgers, nearly half of the spending from the City”s general fund in the next budget year will be earmarked toward emergency services. Included in that spending is an increase in base pay, a tiered pay scale based in part on length of service, and the possible addition of three new firefighters by April of next year.
In other business, much of the Council”s discussion was dominated by talk of setting an election to allow voters to review some 26 proposed amendments to the City Charter.
According to City Secretary Connie Ortiz, the City might save as much as $6,500 by not having a special election in November to consider the amendments, but rather waiting for the regular election in May. However, the idea was met with split support from the council.
“There is no need to rush into the election, and not holding the special election is a way for us to save $6,500,” said Councilmember Dick Wieland. “I understand that the Ordinance Review Commission has to wait on the charter amendments to finish their work, but if they at least know what”s being proposed, they can move forward.”
While Councilmembers Lew White and Michael Sanders seemed to agree with Wieland”s thoughts, the other three councilmembers present had other ideas.
“It”s our responsibility, not only to serve the citizens, but to help educate them,” said Councilmember Kenny Roland. “Holding this election on it”s own, instead of with the possible mud-slinging of a regular election where councilmembers are being elected, is a chance for us to help our citizens learn something about the city charter and how the city runs.”
Councilmember Paul Gomez and Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram stood with Roland, opposite Wieland, White and Sanders on a tie vote. Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada was not present for the meeting or the vote.
The election will come before the council during their next regular meeting on Sept. 4 for further discussion and action.
Also, the council discussed asking the Parks and Recreation Board to consider a resolution renaming the Maple Street Sports Complex the Cpl. Jason K. LaFleur Sports Complex, to honor Caldwell County”s first soldier killed in the line of duty in Iraq. LaFleur was a long-time soccer player in the Lockhart Youth Soccer Association, according to his family and friends.
In brief news:
The Council agreed to allow the Dr. Eugene Clark Library to purchase three stand-alone computers with grant funds received through the Lone Star Libraries Grant.
They awarded a bid to Versalift Southwest for the purchase of a new 42-foot aerial platform lift (bucket truck) for the city”s Electric Department.
They presented an award to the City Planning Department on behalf of the American Planning Association. For the second year, the Planning Department received recognition and a Certificate of Achievement for Planning Excellence.
The panel set public hearings on Sept. 11, Sept. 18 and Sept. 27 to allow the public to discuss the pending budget and tax rate.
The Lockhart City Council has regularly scheduled meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The meetings are open to the public, and are televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.