The Levelland City Council met Monday night in a regular meeting.
During the public forum portion of the meeting, Pete Cunningham spoke to the council, saying that their are ways to cut budgets without having to lower tax rates. He said “I am against raising taxes, however, cutting taxes can lead to having to cut staffing in the city which will ultimately affect police and fire department staffing which he is against cutting staff in law enforcement or first responders.
The council took action to approve the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget. City Manager Erik Rejino said this was one of the most challenging budgets to create. He also said department heads spent a tremendous amount of time working to make sure it was a balanced budget. When comparing operations and maintenance budget is less than last year by approximately $400,000.
The council discussed the property tax rate. Councilman Jim Myatt noted that the legislature came up with a new rate known as the “No New Revenue Tax Rate” which would be 67 cents per $100 property value. That would be the rate that creates the same amount of revenue as last year. It was noted that it does not take into account new property values. Councilwoman Breann Buxkemper noted that with the proposed rate of 66.514 cents per $100 property value, the city will still create additional revenue. It was also noted that oil prices are back down below $40 a barrel and the fear is out there that it could be lower in January. Councilman Jim Myatt made a motion to lower the tax rate to .645 cents per $100 property value. Myatt said the lower rate will account for a 4.5% increase in property values. The motion was seconded by Breann Buxkemper. Myatt and Buxkemper voted in favor of the 64.5 cents tax rate while JoeBill Vardeman voted against. Councilman Max Ledesma was not present at the meeting.
The council also took action to lower garbage service rates to $27.53 from the current $28.38 for residential customers and $60.68 for commercial customers down from the current $62.56. This reflects the 3% decrease which was part of the contract extension with Republic Services.
The council took action to approve a re-plat of property at 502 College Avenue. The property is currently made up of 6 separate lots and the owners of the property, Sykora Enterprises, LTD requested it be changed to one large lot for future commercial development on the lot. The re-plat was approved with little discussion.
The council then discussed the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. It was noted that the Governor has renewed the Disaster Declaration and no changes have been made in the Governor’s orders. It was noted that in a municipality he has delegated, the Mayor is the ONLY one with the authority to approve any outdoor gathering of 10 or more people. The city attorney noted that city’s at this point cannot veer away from the Governor’s order. Currently Hockley County has 51 active cases.
The council also took action to appoint members to the various City boards and commissions.
The council took action to appoint Buddy Moore as one of the city’s representative to the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority Board of Directors. Currently, Richard Ellis and Scott Wade serve as the representatives. The term for Scott Wade is ending and he has decided to not serve another term.
Mayor Barbra Pinner also informed the council that she has reappointed Butch Wade, Lisa Hanna and Micki Lotz to the Levelland Housing Authority Board.
The council also took action on an agreement with the Texas Department Of Transportation for the Routine Airport Maintenance Program. The agreement allows the city to continue with the grant in the next fiscal year which helps pay for airport improvements.
The council also received a presentation regarding the findings from a recent Levelland Housing Study. The study finds that Levelland is in desperate need of new multi-family and single family detached housing, and the prices they are willing to pay in Lubbock, shows that is not a problem. The average weekly wage paid in Hockley County is $1,001 and the annual median household income is $50,630. The real estate taxes and all of the other taxes are being lost to another city, as well as the intangible factors of a cohesive growing city. The report also notes that Levelland employers have 7,263 employees in 2017. Of those employees 4,674 (64.4%) commute into Levelland as they live out of the city. A large portion of those who live outside of Levelland live in Lubbock where they have new single family housing and new multi-family complexes. Owners and renters pay the few extra hundred dollars to live there and spend approximately 36 minutes of drive time each way to go to and from work in Levelland. This housing study tells the city and apartment developers or home builders that their is a definite need for multi family rentals and single family homes. This full report will be available on the City of Levelland website, Levelland EDC website and the MainStreet website. It will also be provided to local banks, developers and home builders.
The city also approved a negotiated settlement with Atmos Energy West Texas. After negotiation the executive committee of the coalition of West Texas Cities was able to negotiate a lower rate increase than the requested increase. The average impact will be approximately $3.04 per month on an average monthly bill.