Levelland City Council held a regular meeting on Monday night.
The council heard from Pete Cunningham to discuss the police department. He thanked them for their service to this community. He asked the council to fund a budget to start a bomb squad for the Levelland Police Department. He also asked the council to fund within this budget year, a new Law Enforcement center for the Levelland Police Department and a City Jail for Levelland PD only.
The council also heard a presentation on the Texas Municipal League Our Home Our Decisions campaign. With the 86th Legislative Session starting Tuesday, TML has put together a campaign to keep decisions on the local level. City Manager Erik Rejino invites all council members and staff to be involved in the legislative process. As a home rule city, Levelland has the ability to do things specific to Levelland, however, it was noted that legislation has been introduced to totally eliminate Home Rule cities which would take away a lot of the flexibility in our ordinances. It was noted that instead of celebrating the amazing successes of Texas cities, some state officials are telling the world that Texas cities are bad places to do business. Some state officials want to put one size fits all restrictions on the annual budgets of all cities and counties. Many state lawmakers are trying to convince citizens that cities are the reason for higher property taxes, it was noted on your property tax bill only 23% of your property tax bill is from the city. Texas property taxes are high because the legislature has been cutting the state’s share of funding for education which forces school districts to raise your local property taxes to make up the difference according to information in provided in this campaign from the Texas Municipal League. The people elect a local governing body for a city and any erosion to that principle is a step back. Local governing bodies should have the right to decide how much they want to invest in infrastructure improvements such as roads, new police and fire stations, etc.
The council also took action to approve a resolution to send to the state legislature telling them, the city is opposed to legislative interference with local services, local revenue and local decision making.
The council also discussed the Street Maintenance Sales Tax. The sales tax funds a large portion of street maintenance in the city currently. This is a sales tax and is collected on all sales in the city. Over $600,000 was collected in the street maintenance sales tax last fiscal year. If it is not included it would necessitate an approximate 12 cent property tax increase. Councilman Jim Myatt and Councilwoman Breann Buxkemper both agreed the tax is absolutely necessary. The sales tax will be put on the May ballot to renew the sales tax which has to be renewed every 4 years according to state law.
The council also discussed a proposed ordinance to ban parking on streets around the high school from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. Councilwoman Breann Buxkemper said she “had spoke to many residents in that area and all have said they are in support of the ban.” In order to make it less restrictive on residents in the area, Mayor Barbra Pinner said it might be beneficial to make the hours later such as 9:30 am to 2:00 pm. A number of exceptions have been included in the ordinance to account for delivery vehicles, maintenance vehicles and etc. It was noted that an exception could be added to allow for residents to park in front of their house. Police Chief Albert Garcia said he feels that the school should have the authority to enforce a rule that students park in the parking lot not put this on the city to handle. City Attorney Matt Wade, said he is not sure that the school could mandate a student to not park on a city street. He said that their is another option and actually require that a certain percentage of residents in an area petition to have the ordinance passed. The city is planning to host public hearings before the ordinance is passed. The police chief noted, we don’t have the staff for this as we only have two school resource officers to cover all of the schools in the district. After some discussion, the city manager and police chief will meet with school administrators again to ask for help. The city council is also looking at hosting a public meeting for residents in that area to possibly be held in the high school commons. It was also noted that faculty members of the high school are also parking on Hickory street and the school needs to enforce a rule that faculty members use the faculty parking. Action was tabled until further discussion and a public hearing. Action will be taken in February.
The council also took action to approve on the first reading an ordinance to allow Lamb County Electric to continue operating in Levelland. The ordinance will have to be approved two more times.
The council also met in executive session, no action was taken following the closed meeting.