La Feria News

La Feria city commission approves 2020-21 fiscal year budget, new tax rates

Since March of this year city commission meetings have been held virtually via Zoom. Here is a screen capture of last Tuesday’s meeting. Photo: Cayetano Garza Jr. / LFN

By CAYETANO GARZA JR.
LFN

The La Feria city commission held its regular scheduled meeting this past Tuesday, September 22, at 6:30 pm. In accordance to an order by the Texas governor issued March 16, the commission has been holding its meetings online via Zoom live streamn in lue of face-to-face meetings with the hopes of continuing to slow the spread of Covid-19 by maintaining strict social distancing while still performing the duties of government.

After observing the usual protocols of a regular meeting (invocation, pledge, determining quorum present, and call to order), the commission opened the floor to public comments. La Feria resident Jesus Mendoza was present to voice his concerns for officers and dispatchers in the La Feria police department and their chronic occupational exposure to radiation from equipment. Mr. Mendoza went on to cite recent studies and reports of high incidents of cancer and illness within law enforcement due to exposure and stressed the need for the implementation of Environmental Health and Safety measures to protect our local law enforcement.

The commission thanked Mr. Mendoza for his public comments and there being no other public comments the commission proceeded to approve the minutes of the last city meeting (held September 8) as well as an approval of the budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021.

The commission then went on to consider Ordinance 2020-10 approving ad valorem tax rate for the fiscal year 2020-2021, Ordinance 2020-11 regarding water and sewer rates and Ordinance 2020-12 regarding brush and solid waste rates.

In consideration and ultimate approval of each of the items, the commission stressed the need to raise rates in order to tend to debts the city is still trying to manage as well as provide services and maintain infrastructure especially during the pandemic.

City Finance Director Frank Rios stressed that in most cities rates regularly go up from year to year but had actually not changed significantly since 2015 in La Feria. The slight increase would allow for budgets to be set for a new street sweeper as well as an increase in some reserves for regular municipal maintenance.

Rios also mentioned that several lift stations around town were in need of maintenance and that failure to maintain them would ultimately cost the city more in fines incurred from failed state inspections as well as maintenance. A wastewater lift station is a pumping station that moves wastewater from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. The benefit of using a lift station in a sewage collection system is that it saves a substantial amount of money in excavation costs, which involves digging for sewer pipes.

City manager Jaime Sandoval stressed the importance of informing the community of where their taxes are used and that the rising cost in treatment chemicals and equipment as well as the ongoing payment of the city’s debt were all factors in the rise in tax rates. Both Sandoval and Rios agreed that posting detailed information for the community was important and would be added to the website and social media as soon as possible.

The commission also approved farm lease agreements with Carl Bauer, Jr. as well as Mid Valley Agriculture, all recurring leases with local farmers on city owned land.

Finally, the commission selected a contractor for improvements to the city’s waste water treatment plant. The improvements would be funded with surplus funds from money awarded to the city by the Texas Water Development Board. Joe Winston, professional engineer with SWG Engineering LLC, explained to the commission that it had been twelve years since improvements had last been made to the La Feria waste water treatment plant and outlined the details of improvement that would be made by the firm that was selected. The commission voted to award the contract to New Braunfels-based R.P. Constructors Inc., the same firm that had built the plant.

With no other business on the agenda, the commission voted to adjourn.
The next meeting of the La Feria city commission is scheduled for October 13, 2020 at 6:30 pm. To view the meeting via internet live streaming, please visit this link, Meeting ID: 967 3122 4864, Passcode: 984389, or by calling 346-248-7799 by phone. Members of the public may sign up for public comment on an agenda item or for another item of public concern by submitting an email to amorales@cityoflaferia.com containing the name of the individual wishing to comment; and the item number or subject matter the individual wishes to comment on. Please submit requests for public comment no later than two hours before the meeting. Join the meeting at the time and login listed above and the Mayor will call on you when it is your turn to speak. A recording of the meeting will be made and will be available to the public in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act.

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