Levelland City Council Holds Special Meeting

The Levelland City Council met in a special meeting Tuesday night.

The council approved a revised plat on land in the rail park. The land will be used for a rail spur for the new company coming to the rail park. It is required for the city to own the rail spur since it is being paid for by a grant obtained by the city for the LEDC’s use for infrastructure improvements.

The council tabled action on entering into a contract with Parkhill, Smith and Cooper for engineering services for the project in the rail park. The city requested proposals and PSC was the only company to submit a proposal. City administration is still working a final contract out with the firm.

The council also approved entering into a contract with South Plains Association of Governments to administer the grant with the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development Block Grant.

The council approved other miscellaneous items in relation to the grant including authorized signatures for drawing funds, Appointing Labor Standards Officer for the grant as well as a civil rights officer.

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The council also held the first budget work session for the 2019-2020 budget year. A preliminary look of the General Fund budget indicates the city will have an increase in expenditures and is predicting a lower revenue, however, the city historically over estimates expenditures and under estimates revenue.

Revenues for 2018-2019 are estimated to be 8.3 Million dollars, approximately $300,000 higher than budgeted.

City Manager, Erik Rejino opened discussions on sales tax numbers. It was noted that 2017 an upturn started with sales tax. 2018, sales tax was up 28% with several months being all time highs. The city was able to put approximately $500,000 back into reserve funds for the city budget. He noted that the city cannot rely on sales tax to continue increasing. He also discussed property tax values, noting that the preliminary values are up approximately 2% from last year. It was noted that their is an increase in new values with approximately $12 million. It was pointed out that normally new values are usually around $4 million each year.

It was noted that retirement costs are down slightly through Texas Municipal Retirement Systems. The city has built a 10% increase in workers comp in the budget for next year and a 6-9% increase in health insurance costs. The city has also built in a 2.0% cost of living adjustment for employees. It was noted that merit pay increases have been figured in for some employees. The city manager said “it is important we retain the good employees we have.”

The city is expected to be 6.4% under budget on expenditures from the 2018-2019 fiscal year and is estimated at 5% over budget for revenues from the 2018-2019 fiscal year and this was all with a 7 cent property tax cut for property owners.

It was pointed out that a new law passed by the legislature this year will cost the city approximately $50,000 in Cable TV franchise fees. The new law will take effect in 2020 and will allow companies such as NTS that currently pays the city both telephone and cable tv fees to only pay the highest franchise fee which is telephone and not pay the other.

The council then heard from various department heads.

Inspections Office:

Their is no capital outlay expected. They are budgeting an increase in all other expenses which pays for the roll off program as well as the lot mowing and well site mowing. They are also looking at contracting a third party company to assist the city’s Chief Building Official in reviewing plans for new construction and to assist in building inspections. They are looking at approximately a $12,000 increase to cover that expense.

Emergency Management:

No major change in the budget with the exception of the Ambulance Services contract, there is a 3% increase in the ambulance contract between Covenant Health Levelland and the City of Levelland

Main Street:

It was reported that the Levelland Main Street program has scored the highest in the history of the program through the State Main Street program. The Main Street program is asking for an additional $5,000 in advertising to fund Lemonade Day through the National Lemonade Day program. Several businesses downtown requested the Main Street to look into Lemonade Day. Levelland will be an official Charter city as Lubbock is and it would be known as Lemonade Day Levelland. There was a question from the council about where the additional money would go. Approximately $3000 would go to the National Lemonade Day group and the remaining $2000 would go towards marketing.

Economic Development:

This portion of the budget covers the reimbursement to the city from the EDC to cover personnel cost for the Director and Administrative Assistant. The total EDC budget will be approved at a later meeting.

Municipal Court:

The main change in the budget is the increase to cover maintenance and support fees for the Incode software. It was also noted that the State is now requiring the city send their court officer to security meetings as they are now requiring the court to have security in the court. It was also noted they will be replacing the court clerk’s computer.

Fire Department:

They were able to maintain a fairly even budget compared to 2018-2019. The Chief did warn everyone that Airpacks and Safety Supplies such as bunker gear continues to increase. In 2019-2020 they will replace 4 airpacks, 10 sets of bunker gear, and replacing 10 pagers.

Police Department:

No major changes. They will replace three fully equipped marked police units. It was noted that the new body cameras and in vehicle cameras are working great and the department is using seized funds to purchase new computers for the department this year and is also being used to fund other projects. The department also is looking at an increase in pay for part time employees in the department as well as an incentive based pay plan for part time employees. It was also discussed that as part of the city’s master plan, the city will be paying the fire department and communication center notes off in a few years and this year they are proposing to move forward and have master drawings done for a future law enforcement center to be built east of the current fire station and communications center.

Street Department:

The city will continue to replace stop signs with the new break away anchor and poles and with a bigger stop sign as required by state law. The street department is also continuing with the routine seal coating as well as replacing street signs. They are also looking to replace a pickup in the department.

Shop Department:

No change in budget.

Parks Department:

They are looking at replacing three mower decks and purchasing a utility hydraulic dump trailer at a total cost of $25,000. They will also be adding some trees and landscaping at the sports complex and other city parks. They will also be purchasing a new computer for the department.

Cemetery Department:

There is some money budgeted for replacing some of the trees in the cemetery. They will also being replacing a riding mower with a small zero turn mower.

Swimming Pool:

No major changes in budget. It was discussed that the swimming pool is nearing its useful life. The city has replacement of the pool in the master plan for the City Park. The City Manager said the city is going to have to start thinking about it. Councilwoman Breann Buxkemper said “she is afraid that the city pool is going to break down and not be able to be fixed before the city can afford the 4-6 million dollar project.” She said, “I don’t have the answer but if we have to close the pool it will get ugly.” Approximately 200 kids per day utilize the pool. The city manager noted that right now the city cannot fiscally afford to undertake the new pool project, although, it is likely the largest capital item needed in the city park. Breann Buxkemper asked about the possibility of partnering with another entity to construct a new swimming pool.

Water Department:

The department will be going to a new type of water meter and as meters are being replaced. Eventually the city would like to go to a fix based system that will allow the meters to transmit readings to city hall on an automatic basis and eventually customers will be able to monitor their water usage on a daily basis. They will also be replacing a computer for the Water Department secretary. They will also paint and put new signs at the old fire station which is where the water department is housed now. The budget is also figured to rework the Lee Street water wells.

Wastewater Department:

It was noted that the city is going to have to look at major renovations of the Wastewater treatment plant at a cost of an estimated 10–15 million dollars. Part of the money will be able to come from the Sewer Improvement Fund. There is also an option to apply for funding through the Texas Water Development Board.

Water & Sewer Administration:

It was noted that postage continues to increase to send utility bills out. The council discussed with the city administration to do a campaign to alert residents that they can switch to e-billing to help alleviate some of the costs incurred by the city. The city will begin offering an option for someone to make payments by phone and they will be installing a kiosk at city hall for people to use to make payments to help alleviate traffic at city hall.

Sanitation:

Very little change, they are looking to hire a new part time employee for the landfill to monitor and pick up any trash that gets outside the landfill fence. This is a requirement of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The council will host their second budget work session on July 8th at 6:00 pm.

About Drew Dunn

News Director for KLVT AM 1230 in Levelland. We provide local and regional news updates 5 times a day on KLVT AM 1230 and online at www.klvtradio.com
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