The City of Levelland hit the ground running with the first of its budget workshops last night as they move swiftly towards the new fiscal year. This budget, while preliminary did not account for a few variables, and the increase in cost for supplies as well as fuel has impacted every department. Left out of the budget proposal were a continuation of our seal coat project for approx. $350K, Internal Finance Repayment on various city vehicles or equipment for approx. $257K, health insurance costs increases that the city is absorbing so as not to pass financial burden to their staff coming in about $88K, Capital requests such as animal shelter improvements, additional vehicles, etc for approx $440K, and certain personnel issues such as retirement, additional staffing, etc. for approx $337K. With these items being left out of the original proposal, it allows Council to fit them in as they can, and prioritize which issues they believe to be most pressing. Additionally on the horizon, as discussed in past meetings is the end of life for the City’s Waste Water Treatment Plant. City Manager Brandon Anderson stated staff were attempting to get bond packages presented from interested parties for a new Treatment Plant, but would quite possibly need to hold a special meeting as the presentations are expected to be robust.
The Fire and Police Departments saw slight decreases in overall budget, with the Fire Dept. dropping to $1.29 Million from $1.42 Million last year, while PD sees a budget of $3.3 Million from $3.5 Million last year. Fuel budget, however for both of these departments has increased to accommodate the price of gas, and in the Fire Department’s case payments to the Capital Finance Fund have fallen off as they pay off debts owed.
One change being discussed is in the wages of workers in the Cemetery, Swimming Pool, and Parks Departments. Currently a large expenditure for these departments is overtime, as staff numbers are hard to keep. Its projected that this year the Parks dept. will have paid $23K in overtime wages, and the Cemetery is on track to pay another $22K. Dustin Reichelt, who oversees both those departments, is asking for an increase in wages in order to be more competitive on the market. Staff are hopeful this will retain and attract more employees.
Before covering the substance of the budget, three plans were given to the Council to deliberate upon in regards to a tax rate for the year. The No New Revenue (NNR) Rate this year would be $0.521. Last years budget accounted for a tax rate of $0.625, showing an increase in property values. A plan accounting for that tax rate, a tax rate increase of 1 additional penny ($0.531) as well as a De Minimis Rate of $0.571 were all presented. In regards to the General Fund, Cemetery Fund, and Interest & Redemption Fund, the NNR rate would raise approx. $3.88 Million for the City, while the De Minimis Rate would raise $4.2 Million. Nothing was decided as of this meeting, but it was stated that Council is expected to propose a Tax Ceiling at their next meeting on August 8th.
City Manager Brian Anderson suggested focusing on Internal Revenue Payments this year, meaning the possibility of a smaller Seal coat project than in years past, however as stated before this budget workshop is merely preliminary. Having made their way through the entirety of the budget for the 2nd time as a council, they saw themselves in advantageous enough progress to cancel the second budget session, which was scheduled for Thursday.