Lubbock City Council held two marathon meetings on Monday and Tuesday to hear staff presentations, ask questions and make suggestions on the city government’s proposed thousand-page, billion-dollar budget for fiscal year 2022- 2023 (FY23).
This follows months of work by city staff, who begin work on next year’s budget shortly after the previous year’s budget is passed.
Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the budget and tax rate on September 6, and it is expected to adopt the budget at its regular meeting on September 13. The new fiscal year begins in October.
Here are 15 things to know about the proposed FY23 budget (this list is by no means exhaustive):
Global budget increasing: The total of all spending from all city funds is expected to increase by about $60 million, or about 6%, to a total of just over $1 billion.
Increase in inflation: According to the budget presentation, gasoline and diesel costs are up 57% from a year ago, pushing the budget up by more than $2 million. Electricity costs increased by 20%, or nearly $2 million, due to higher natural gas prices. Inflation in other areas such as supplies, equipment and professional services increases the budget by over $5 million.
Property tax rate to be reduced: The budget includes a 4-cent decrease in the city’s overall property tax rate. Nevertheless, property tax revenues will increase by approximately $4.7 million. $3 million of additional revenue comes from new properties added to tax rolls in 2021.
Sales tax should increase: Lubbock’s sales tax revenue for fiscal year 23 is expected to total about $90 million, about 2% higher than revenue projected for the current fiscal year.
No major price increases: Fees for water, sewer, storm water and residential solid waste will not change in the next budget. Solid waste dumping fees at the West Texas Regional Disposal Facility — the per-ton rate for bulk disposal at the landfill — will increase by 75 cents per ton. Tipping fees for so-called special waste will increase by $1.44 per tonne.
Several staff positions added: The city will add 17 employees and eliminate four positions for a net change of 13 total employees. The new positions include five Lubbock Fire Rescue staff, two animal services officers and two Lubbock Power & Light transmission system operators. Two 311 call attendant positions and two electrician positions will be eliminated.
Increased street maintenance budget: Funds budgeted for the street maintenance program will increase by $1 million in FY23 to a total of $12 million.
Upcoming Solid Waste Transfer Station: A $17.1 million capital improvement project, funded by a 20-year bond certificate, is planned for the construction of a new solid waste transfer station, which would allow garbage truck drivers to empty their trucks at a location within the city rather than having to drive to the landfill near Abernathy every time they fill up. This is intended to increase the efficiency of the solid waste system.
After:Lubbock Solid Waste is working to keep pace despite staffing and supply issues
Planned vehicle purchases: The budget provides for the issuance of $4.8 million in tax notes over 7 years for a capital improvement project to purchase three fire trucks, plus an additional bulldozer and solid waste compactor of $1 million to use in the landfill. The city plans to buy another 67 vehicles, including police SUVs, with the money.
Planned water and sewer projects: The budget provides $15.9 in revenue bonds over 10 years to cover four capital improvement projects related to water and wastewater. These projects include the replacement of a downtown sewer line for $6.5 million, the rehabilitation of the terminal storage tank at the northern water treatment plant for $6 million, the expansion of the water system in southeast Lubbock for $1.5 million and in west Lubbock for $1.9 million.
City employees to be increased: Most city employees can expect a pay increase in FY23, with a proposed average increase of 5% for all city employees. Employees at the bottom of the pay scale will see the biggest increase at 8%, and employees at the top of the scale will receive 4.75%. However, health benefit costs for employees will also increase by 2%.
Launch of the Employee Education Assistance Program: The city is allocating half a million dollars for a new Employee Education Assistance Program, which will help city employees earn GED and college degrees. Employees seeking a high school diploma or job-specific certification will get the first shot at EEAP funds.
Wading pools could replace municipal swimming pools: $5.1 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds are budgeted to build three wading pools in Lubbock parks to replace the Mae Simmons, Maxey and Montelongo pools. The Clapp Pool would be the only remaining municipal pool. The cost of repairing the 1950s pools and bringing them up to standard would be exorbitant, according to the budget presentation, and the wading pools would save the city significant operating costs.
Library fines are no longer: Lubbock Libraries is proposing to completely eliminate the 25 cents per day fine for late library materials. Library fines generate $40,000 in revenue for the city per year.
Airport improvements continue: Capital improvements totaling nearly $10 million are planned for Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in FY23, funded by cash and federal grants. The CARES Act funding will cover $2.17 million for airport property improvements and roof replacement. The money is set aside for the expansion of the apron and the improvement of taxiways L and M.