The Levelland City Council began their budget talks for the 2015-2016 budget Tuesday evening. They are expected to resume budget talks on Monday of next week at 6pm.
The full report of that meeting is posted below. The various departments discussed are listed in bold print.
It was pointed out that the city has created a line item for election expenses for $13,000 which covers the contracted cost to the county. It was noted that this year we had expenses of $16,000 which was mainly due to the alcohol election because the law requires that you have one ballot for every registered voter in the city plus 10% which created the extra expense. It was also noted that the city is budgeting additional money for training of council members as this council has chosen to attend some additional training.
Really Only Difference is less travel. They have increased advertising which covers all advertising the city does including public notices and legal notices. It was noted that there have been some additional regulations placed on the city forcing more public and legal notices.
Budget is approximately $1300 higher than current budget which included training in Atlanta, Georgia for the accounting programs for the city. It was pointed out that the city digitizes a lot of records, however, state law requires that financial records be kept in hard copy form for several years.
Mostly Unchanged. It was noted that for every traffic citation paid in the City of Levelland $99 goes to the State of Texas first before the city gets anything.
It was noted that the budget is down approximately $4000 due to fact that city had to purchase 2 servers in this budget. It was noted that the city and police department together have 11 servers and they are all backed up off site.
Most of the increase is to hire a consultant to come in and evaluate ISO (Insurance Service Organization) rating which effects the communities property insurance rates. It was noted the main increase in this budget will be the new fire station. It was noted that they also must replace some air packs and 10 sets of bunker gear. Bunker gear must be replaced every 10 years as required by law. It was pointed out in the future council will likely need to hold a work session to discuss personnel for the department because in the future the department will need to add atleast 6 more paid firefighters.
The main change in the budget is to purchase and equip 20 officers with body cameras and to also equip all uniformed officers with tasers. Chief Toney Cowan said that after reviewing the city’s use of force policy it was decided that as recommended by state regulations tasers is another non lethal method in addition to Bean Bag Guns, Pepper Ball Guns and Mace.
Replacing a 2005 Chevrolet pickup with a new 3/4 ton pickup in order for the department to be able to pull the mower and equipment on trailer which they use to mow lots that people are not mowing. They are also looking to replace Code Books because the department will have to go through a state inspection in the future and the city will also have to update codes as well.
Planning to replace street sweeper. That will be the big item in the budget this year. It was noted that the current unit is to a point that it MUST be replaced. Council expressed concerns that the street sweeper is not currently doing a good job. A new one is expected to improve that. The city is also planning to re-work Alamo Road to repair a problem with drainage. It was noted that the road was properly engineered and properly constructed. It was noted that the owner on west side would give the city a drainage easement and so a culvert was constructed and then the owner of the property backed out and would not give the easement. The property has sold and the new owner has signed an easement for the city and now the road will have to be reconstructed because the road fell apart due to water standing on it.
Replace 1 mower and to replace 2 park pavilions. Director, John Cobb commended his staff for being able to keep the parks mowed and in good condition where as some neighboring cities have not been able to keep up with the mowing in the city parks. It was noted that the Parks Department was cut some this year in order to allow for public safety items such as the new fire station and other items needed by the fire and police department. Councilman Manuel Mendez then proceeded to question rather extensively and make comments concerning the civic center at the city park. He noted that the building is an image of the city. He mentioned that we may want to hire a professional to come in and clean the facility and buff the floors so that they shine and they should shine at all times that the facility is rented out. He also would like to have the windows professionally cleaned as well. He would like to have the building upgraded so that citizens can rent that facility and not have to pay the high fees of the Mallet. It was noted that fees to rent the civic center currently are $100 per event with a $150 deposit. It was pointed out that in most cases the people who rent the facility always clean it up because that is how they get their deposit back. Mendez also continued to talk about various items at city park that needs improved including 2 large pavilions that would likely cost over $20,000 to redo. It was also noted that a basketball court at another park needs improved as well. Mayor Barbra Pinner tried to get council back on budget, however Mendez continued noting that he had questions which was his job as a councilman. He also voiced concerns over the Levelland Oxy Sports Complex that some work still needs to be completed. Parks Dirctor John Cobb pointed out that contractors have a list of items that must be complete, however, rains have slowed some of the work down and the facility has been in use every day since April 11 which makes it hard for contractors to get in and work on some of the projects. Mendez said he disagreed, noting that the facility is only used in the evenings. After more comment, Mendez said “we are just hearing excuses, not getting any action.” It was noted that more of the parks budget will be discussed with the Community Development Budget.
The council will meet again next Monday to continue looking at the general fund. It was noted by City Manager Rick Osburn, that next years budget will be tight especially with the downturn in the economy and property values being down roughly 2%, which means in order to generate the same amount of money as this year property taxes will have to be increased. He also noted that some cuts will have to be made in order to make the budget work.