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Disagreements plague council meeting

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During a contentious meeting dominated by talk of raising taxes and arguments about extraterritorial jurisdiction, the Lockhart City Council planned public hearings regarding proposed tax rates and the 2004-2005 fiscal year budget.
Excitement started during the public work session, when the council heard a resident’s request to remain inside the city’s extr

aterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). Her need to make the request was created when the owners of a neighboring property asked to be de-annexed so they can subidivide their property.
Among other issues, the requestor was concerned that, with the new subdivision, water pressure would not be adequate to provide for fire prevention. Her hope was that the entire property would remain inside Lockart’s ETJ until development regulations could be put in place.
Prior to the meeting, the developers proposed the Cole ranch inside Lockhart’s ETJ via connecting strips of land.
What can best be described as an “impromptu public hearing” erupted over the issue, as the property owner and her son, the developers and their attorney were all present at the meeting and their comments to the council quickly turned to a discussion amongst themselves.
When Mayor Ray Sanders called the crowd back to order, the council voted on the issue. Having heard the concerns of all sides, they decided to allow the Cole ranch to stay within the extended ETJ, while releasing the property belonging to the developers.
Council member Frank Estrada abstained from both discussion and the vote, as he has a family member who works with the developers’ company.
Because the City is in the midst of budget review, the time came for council to decide on a proposed tax rate to present to the public during the public hearing set for September 7 at 6:30. This year, the city is in the strange position of having a rollback rate that is lower than its effective rate, meaning a slightly lower tax rate may generate the same amount of revenue for next year that the city earned this year.
However, during budget talks, the council was shown a number of significant needs, including new equipment for EMS. Further, all members of the council have expressed concern over their inability to give city employees a substantial raise for some time.
All of the council members agreed that the tax rate would need to be raised in order for the City of Lockhart to do what they hope to, both for their employees and for residents, next year without having to cut services. Ultimately, the debate was over how much of an increase was necessary. In the end, the council voted to present an approximately four-cent per hundred tax increase at the public hearing.
In other business, the council agreed to change the existing sign ordinance to allow for certain, well-regulated, off-premises directional signs for nonprofit organizations. The change will also allow for short-term usage of off-premise signs for certain businesses.
They also agreed to rezone two lots near the corner of Alamo and Medina Streets, to allow for the adjoining business to plan for possible expansion in the future.
They also agreed with two procedural requirements that Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin requested to bring the city into compliance with state rules governing the parking grant the city recently applied for.
Finally, they discussed, and opted to table, a resolution regarding continuing the temporary reduction of impact fees. The impact fees are a hot-button issue, as some council members are unsure how effective or fair the charges are.

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