Lytle approves $16.6 million budget, staff says utility rates must go up soon amidst growing city/ infrastructure projects

Today’s technology is amazing…Lytle City Administrator Matthew Dear, standing, addresses the city council Monday night, including District 5 Alderman Charles Cate who attended via internet connection (see laptop at right where he is on screen). Cate, an Air Force reservist, is currently deployed to an undisclosed location overseas, Mayor Ruben Gonzalez said.

By Anton Riecher
The Lytle City Council voted Monday to approve a proposed 2022-2023 budget of $16.6 million, not including expected federal stimulus funds.
On a motion by District 3 Alderman David Emery seconded by District 2 Alderman Sam Cortez the proposed budget was approved by a vote of 4-0. District 1 Alderman Joseph Morrow was absent from the meeting.
City Administrator Matthew Dear announced that the city’s total taxable value for the new budget year is $234.3 million. To collect the same revenue as the current year a no-new revenue tax rate of $.3443 per $100 valuation would be necessary.
“The new budget will raise $88,205 more than the current year, an 11 percent increase,” Dear said. “A lot of that is based on increased values as well as new properties added to the property roll this year.”
Under state law, the maximum tax rate the city can approve without voter consent is $.3654 per $100 valuation.
If an expected $379,885 in relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act comes through the city will show an income of $17.8 million under the proposed budget.
“We do not have that number built into the coming year’s budget because we haven’t got that money yet,” Dear said.
The biggest obligations would be $6.1 million in water system improvements, $1.4 million in sewer system improvements and $985,000 in roads and sidewalks.
To make the new city budget work, Dear warned that the council will have to increase Lytle utility rates to bring them in line with surrounding communities in the coming year. For water, Lytle residents pay $12.00 a month compared to $38.14 in Devine, $32.47 in Hondo and $30 in Castroville,
For sewer, Lytle residents pay $18 a month compared to $30 in Castroville, $27.06 in Hondo and $23.57 in Devine.
“If we’re not going to change those we might as well put the brakes on everything we’re doing,” Dear said. “Tell the developers ‘Thank you, but not today.’”
A presentation by the Finance Director LaNet Hester noted Lytle experienced a 22% growth in 2021-22 and a 28% growth is expected each year until 2025.
District 5 Alderman Charles Cate, an Air Force reservist on deployment overseas, voted for the increase via an internet connection.
The council set 2:30 p.m. Aug. 30 as the date for a council workshop on utility and inspection rates.
In other action related to taxation, the council voted to approve a tax assessment and collection contract with Atascosa County. The county will charge the city $1.50 per parcel to collect, plus 10 cents for the central appraisal district.
If the city choses a different firm to collect delinquent taxes the cost goes up an additional 10 cents per parcel. The city’s current contract for delinquent tax collection lapses at the end of this year.
The council voted to authorize the city staff to issue requests for proposals to select a consulting firm to help Lytle apply for a $500,000 Texas Community Development Block Grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture.
“We’ve been told that the two top priorities this year will be wastewater and storm water,” Dear said.
First to apply for the job was GrantWorks. Michael Place, a client services representative for the company, works with the Alamo Area Council of Governments, which includes Atascosa County, and other regional COGs in obtaining grant funds.
Part of the grant process is “pre-scoring” the cities making application, he said.
“When we come to you and say we pre-scored you (it means) you rate pretty high and there is a good chance you are going to get funding,” Place said.
GrantWorks charges on a percentage basis but only if the grant application is successful, he said. The grant application would be required to benefit a low to moderate income area. Also, the city would have to provide a current audit.
The grant would also require a two-percent match of $10,000 from the city. The motion to search for consulting help was made by Emery and seconded by District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez.
Regarding the recent controversy concerning the proposed 170-plus lot Lytle MHC Mobile Park, the council voted to suggest 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the city community center as the date for a town hall meeting on the project.
“The main objective out of this meeting is to have the developer present the plans and let the community actually get an idea of what is happening,” Gonzalez said.
“Although the meeting will be posted to the city hall website the city has no plans to make any formal presentation,” Dear said.
“It’s not a city meeting,” Dear said. “We are just facilitating a location.”
Citizen voices concerns on flooding around Lake Shores
A thunderstorm raging outside city hall set the stage for one resident concerned about high water. Trace Joyce spoke during the public comment period of the council meeting to warn that recent work in the Lakeshore Drive neighborhood to add an earthen crown above a pipeline increases the risk of flooding.
“It will increase the water that is going to be held,” Joyce said. “It increases the danger of a greater overflow when it has crested and it is finally pushed out of the way.”
Mayor Ruben Gonzalez said that a new drainage study is being discussed.
Ethics Comission created
On a motion by Emery seconded by Rodriguez the council voted to create an ethics commission to establish standards of conduct for city officials who volunteer to serve as city officials.
“Council members volunteer as full-time employees,” Dear said. “This is going to set forth our ethical standards on what is expected of you.”
The ordinance creating the commission establishes requirements for such volunteers to make financial disclosures and other reporting to avoid conflict of interest.
“For example, the planning and zoning commission is all volunteer,” Dear said. “If they had a financial interest in property being zoned it is information that we as a city need to know. They need to recuse themselves from that decision.”
Step toward Ozone ordinance
The council also voted to take the first steps toward an ordinance limiting the idling of heavy vehicles for lengthy periods of time inside the city limits.
“As we continue to grow and get more gas stations along the I-35 corridor we are going to continue to get trucks that are stopping and idling all night,” Dear said. “Bexar County is probably going to become an ozone nonattainment area.”
An ozone nonattainment area is one where air quality does not meet the federal ozone standards.
“Many truckers keep their vehicles idling overnight to provide air conditioning or heat while sleeping inside. An alternative is to park at a truck stop that provides electrical hookup to keep the vehicle comfortable,” Dear said.
Emery, who made the motion supporting development of an ordinance, urged the city to reach out to local truck stops to find out what alternatives are available. The motion was seconded by Rodriguez.
Other Matters
In other matters, the council:
•Approved $700 to finance the Veterans of Foreign Wars post to cook for a Sept. 11 memorial event to honor emergency responders.
•Appointed Martha Ellis of Lytle and Wanda Eggerton, an Atascosa County resident living near Lytle, to serve on the Atascosa County Library Board.
•Nominated Evangelina DeLeon, Margaret Wilson, Robin Cantu and Barry Sanders to serve on the Annual Citizenship Award Committee.