Friday, August 24, 2018

Taxes, Budget and Council and More!

I'm giving up on rain, the lakes continue to drop.  It was close enough to smell two days last week, but no luck.  Lake Travis continues to drop - now at 63% full, about 9.24 feet below normal for this time of the year.  Currently at 655.09 down from 655.74 last Friday.  Inflows were about 131 AF yesterday , Travis released 2,202 AF yesterday.    A large deficit.  Let's do a rain dance!

Let's talk taxes.  How much was your raise this year?  Social Security gave us a 2% cost of living raise - the largest in many years.  Lakeway proposed a maximum tax rate of $0.1741, same as last year.  Property values went up about 5% average, mine and many others went up more than that, that means about an average of a $40 increase in your city taxes or about 5%.

That is compounded with a current "roll back rate" of 8%.  The legislature is charged by Gov. Abbott to lower the "roll back" rate to 2.5%.  Let's talk about what that means.  If the "roll back" rate is lowered to 2.5%, our highest tax rate without an election would be $0.1671.  That would be a reduction to the "Effective Tax Rate" that is currently $0.1644.   Just FYI, this is because we use some of our sales tax dollars to buy down the tax rate.

If the "roll back rate" was set at 4% (more likely than 2%) our maximum tax rate would $0.17.  The "roll back rate" that is set by the legislature hurts small cities with low tax rates significantly more than larger cities with larger tax rates - cities like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.  That said, lets hope our elected officials work hard to keep our rates low.  Thanks to all of them for working through the budget process and the city staff for educating them on how it works.

No new Police report.

Council met twice Monday, once for a Special Budget Session and also for the regular Council Session.  

Steve Jones presented the proposed budget and this counted as one of the required public hearings.

There were questions on the Activity Center and Swim Center recapture rates.  There were questions on the Health Insurance rate increases and there was a presentation by our Financial Advisor on the City's Fund Balance.

The recapture rates are set at 35% for the Activity Center and Swim Center.  This was a number that was promoted when the bonds were issued for these assets. There was discussion on how to move forward on the recapture rates and if we want to increase them or not.  There was discussion on the free use by the 80% groups.  

The Health Insurance was put out for bid again this year.  BC&BS (current vendor was a 15% increase), Cigna was a 40% increase, BS&W quoted a 69% increase, and United Health Care was a 66% increase.  Lots of discussion - health care is a continuing issue.

There was a presentation by the financial advisor about our Fund Balance and if the City needs to increase our target amount.  Lots of discussion, our Fund balance target is 25-30% and we are in that range.  That allowed us to get a AA1 rating (highest available for our size city).  The Fund Balance is like a savings account in case there is an issue so the city can continue to serve it's citizens.  The bad news is this requires an increase in funding - more tax dollars to a savings account.  This is all compounded by the legislature wanting to decrease the city's ability to raise taxes.

There was also discussion on the proposed budget and several item lines were discussed.  Here is a link to the video.

A Public Hearing was held after the discussion.  I think 3 citizens spoke.  The meeting went from 2:00 to 5:08 P.M.
4) Knowledge Transfer for new volunteers.  Training held this morning on open meetings and how to run meetings.

Appointments suggested for the Comprehensive Plan Committee were announced and will be appointed next month.  
The Sign Ordinance was put off again because the new attorney is rewriting the entire ordinance.
Some discussion on code enforcement and update on current issues.

5)  Police Station was discussed and seems to be on time and on budget.  We are about half way through the project.

6)  Special Use permit was granted for 15301 Pheasant Lane for a small office, retail sales and shop.  No objections were made.

7)  Boat dock ordinance was amended to take out the 100' restriction.  

8)  Heritage Commission ordinance was tabled until issues could be corrected.

9)  Resolution was adopted for a written process for Boards and Committees.  There were also written procedures made to standardize when video's and audio tapes are done and how long they are kept.

Judy Holloway spoke and claimed that changes have been made to video recordings.  Our vendor removes dead space from videos, no votes or content is ever changed.  She claims to have proof of video changes that have been altered.  City Manager Steve Jones requested examples of those alterations.

10)  A resolution was passed to temporarily suspend the TTP deer control program.  Comments were made that there were more humane ways to control the deer that have been investigated.  None that I am aware of in Texas - Texas Parks controls and decides what is allowed.  A Wildlife Biologist will be hired to determine where this needs to go.

11)  Lakeway Park bidder was awarded a contract.

12)  An interlocal agreement was approved to continue the operation of the 911 service at our dispatch center (PSAP).

13)  There was a discussion on ways to improve public input  for future development projects.

Council then adjourned int Executive Session to discuss the City Managers annual performance review, discuss a project and possible removal of ETJ where a project is proposed and to discuss a lawsuit filed on the election process.

Council came back and worked through the consent agenda which included a correction and discussion on the interlocal agreement with Bee Cave on dispatch charges.

Meeting was adjourned at 10:45.
A lawsuit was filed against Lakeway by Thomas Kilgore because of the way the city is handling the election process.  Here is a copy of the lawsuit if your would like to read it.

CBC met in regular session Thursday,  Here is a link to that agenda.

All items were approved on their agenda.

We now have five candidates for Council.  Glenda Foreman Engert has thrown her hat into the ring.  She was a council member previously and would make a good addition to the council.

That's all I have for now!  Pray for rain. If you want to be added to my email list (or removed), send a note to and I'll take care of it.  Check out Sky Pictures - aerial photo's!  

Thanks for all the support!

Joe Bain

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