The City Council met Monday night and held public hearings for the budget and tax rate for 2016-2017 fiscal year. During the public hearing on the tax rate, Assistant City Manager, Erik Rejino presented the proposed tax rate of 78 cents per $100 property value. City Manager Rick Osburn presented a graphic looking at West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil Prices for this region over the past 10 years. Break Even price according to most producers in this area is $75 per barrel. Oil Prices peaked at $144.52 in June 2008 and then dropped to low of $43.94 in February 2009 then peaked again in June 2014 at $105.96 dropping below the $75 barrel in October 2014 and to the most recent low of $33.79 per barrel in Jan. 2016. In 2008-2009 the city did not feel the financial strain it has this time partly because it was short lived. This time the drop has lasted longer and the drop in property values is strongly related to oil prices. The sales tax being way down is causing the effect on the city. The drop in oil prices this time has been much more severe than the drop in 2008-2009. There was no comment and council adopted the proposed tax rate.
In the public hearing for the budget there was little discussion among council on the budget as they have been looking at the budget for several weeks and heard from all department heads. During the public hearing, Mary Siders the Directer of the Levelland Chamber of Commerce spoke to the council and stated that the chamber had been working on the Keep Levelland Beautiful program and appreciated the $40,000 the city had allocated for the program from savings in moving the Main Street office to city hall, however, she said after much study on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce Board Siders requested an additional $10,000 as it was determined that the $40,000 would not meet expenses. The council took no action on the request, however, they could add it to the budget before it is formally adopted in September. It is important to point out that the budget is already a tight budget and other departments in the city has not received additional funds and their were no raises for city staff included in the budget.
The council also held a public hearing on the daytime and nightime curfew. The legal counsel for the city recommended an exception in the ordinance for private school students who are out during the school day since private school hours may not be the same as public school. He also recommended an exception to allow the Mayor to suspend curfews on an emergency basis. He also recommended an exception for students who would be in violation of curfew if they are attending a sanctioned school event.
The city recently went out for request for qualifications with accounting firm of Bolinger, Segars, Gilbert and Moss to perform the annual audit for 2015-2016 audit. City staff has met with representatives of the firm and council approved last night for the city to enter into a letter of engagement with the accounting firm. That was the only firm to submit a proposal. The city had been using the accounting firm of Pate, Downs and Pinkerton in Levelland, however, that firm notified the city earlier this year that they could no longer perform the audit for the city due to staffing measures. The other accounting firm in Levelland is not able to perform the audit for the city due to conflicts of interest.
The council also took action to authorize staff to issue a request for qualifications for engineering services in relation to the Texas Department of Agriculture Disaster Relief Fund. The city is looking at applying for funds from this fund for the city match portion of the FEMA grant which was received from the Winter Storm. Assistant city manager Erik Rejino said he has learned that the Texas Department of Agriculture Disaster Relief Fund will likely have a cycle for cities to apply for grants this fall. The city would be required to obtain an engineer before the grant application is put in. The action last night authorized hiring a request for qualifications for the engineering services related to this grant. They also appointed a review committee on the procurement of engineering services. The council appointed the City Manager, Asst. City Manager, Public Works Director, along with Mayor Barbra Pinner and Councilman Jim Myatt to serve on the steering committee.
The city council also took action to approve an ordinance to increase water, wastewater and garbage rates. An average bill would go up approximately $4.46 per month which is an estimated 5.8%. It was noted that water and wastewater rates have not increased since 2014.
The council also took action to approve franchise agreement amendment with Southwestern Public Service Company on a 3rd and Final Reading.
The council also took action to cast ballot for Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool Board of Trustees and the Intergovernmental Employee Benefit Pool.