The Levelland City Council held their regular meeting on Monday night.
The council has worked for several months on creating a final budget for 2018-2019 fiscal year. City Manager Erik Rejino noted that we are in a better shape financially going into the next fiscal year than the previous year. He noted that sales tax collections for the city remains strong. Rejino noted we have a good budget for moving the city forward. The council approved the budget on a unanimous vote.
The council approved the proposed tax rate of 70 cents per $100 property value which is seven cents less than the current rate. It was approved on a unanimous vote.
The council also took action to set the water, garbage and street light rates. The changes include a $1 increase to the Water Availability fee to cover the loan to move the water line on South Highway 385 which was required by Texas Department of Transportation for their highway project. Councilman Jim Myatt said “I hate to saddle the citizens with this loan payment for the next 15 years, can the city handle the $842,000 loan. Rejino said, he would not recommend taking it out of the city fund in order to maintain long term sustainability.” Councilwoman, Breann Buxkemper, asked would it be possible that in the future, the city might could handle the payment without passing the fee onto citizens, Rejino said absolutely.” It was noted that capital expenses are heavy right now due to some requirements from TCEQ. They also approved a 25 cent increase on street lights to cover the charge from Xcel Energy. They also approved a 2% increase in garbage rates to satisfy the contract requirement for Republic Services for their annual cost of living adjustment. The total increase to utility bills will be $1.86 per month. It was also noted that the City of Levelland has the 4th lowest Utility rate in the region. The council approved rates on a split vote of 3-1 with Jim Myatt casting the dissenting vote, he stated “I am against this, we just continue to pass increases on to our citizens.”
The council held a public hearing on a Small Community Grant Program. The city is planning to apply for the grant to install a “tot” land playground for ages 2-5 in the Country Club Park. It was noted that currently the only park with a playground for the younger kids is the Sherman park. The city is applying for $48,000 with a city cash match of $24,000. Councilwoman Breann Buxkemper said “I hope we can continue to add to all of our community parks, weather through trees, additional playgrounds, walking trails or other features.”
The council also approved the engineering firm of Parkhill, Smith and Cooper to design and oversee a project for water line replacement and replacement of manhole covers west of Avenue H on 8th street to West Avenue. City staff will now negotiate a contract. The city will apply for a grant to pay for the project, applications will be due in February and the city should know by early summer.
The council also approved the annual investment policy for the city funds. It was approved with only minor changes.
The council also took action to vote on selections for the Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool.
The council also approved an ordinance approving a settlement agreement between Atmos Energy West Texas Division and 67 West Texas cities including Levelland. The net impact to customers will total 2.6 million dollars. Atmos Energy had requested an increase totaling $9.5 million dollars and the negotiating group was able to reduce the request to $6.1 million dollars with a net impact of 2.6 million dollars to all cities.