City exempts goods in transit from tax

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By SHELLY WILKISON

Following the lead of the Liberty Hill ISD, the City Council voted Monday to exempt goods in transit from a property tax — a move city leaders believe will help the community attract manufacturing jobs.

Prompted by a request from the City and an impact study commissioned by the City, the school district’s Board of Trustees voted last week to allow an exemption from the freeport tax on property passing through the district used in manufacturing.

A study produced by Moak, Casey & Associates showed only Hellas Construction was subject to a freeport tax. Hellas is located in the school district, but outside the city limits.

City Administrator Greg Boatright said although there are no companies inside the city limits that are impacted by the exemption, he believes it will make the city more attractive to manufacturing interests looking to locate here. With the exemption in place for Williamson County and LHISD, and now the City, Liberty Hill can offer a triple freeport exemption.

The freeport tax applies to property that comes in from other states and is used to manufacture items in Texas. If the property stays in the state 175 days, it is subject to the tax unless the taxing entities allow an exemption.

On Oct. 17, the Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees rescinded a 1989 resolution that taxed the property.

Although Boatright told The Independent last week that the City had not taken previous action to disallow the exemption, the Council voted Monday to take a similar action to the school board and rescind any previous action on the issue. The City’s attorney said the action was for housekeeping purposes in case something did exist but could not be found.

In other business Monday, the Council affirmed the employment of Jeffrey Farmer as a police officer starting Oct. 31. Farmer will earn an annual salary of $37,200.

Since 2014, Farmer has been working as a rural postal carrier for the Post Office in Austin, but his resume shows more than 17 years of law enforcement experience.

His most recent law enforcement job was as a patrol officer in Abbeville, Louisiana, where he served two years. Prior to that, he worked 10 months as a detective lieutenant for Jeanerette Police Department, and three years as a police detective in St. Martinville, both cities in Louisiana. Farmer also served 11 years in the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana.

Police Chief Maverick Campbell told the Council he plans to hire another patrol officer before year’s end. With the two new positions filled, he anticipates moving to around-the-clock patrols after the first of the year.

In other matters, the Council voted 4-1 to authorize the City Administrator to negotiate a Cost Sharing Agreement with CST – The Corner Store for the construction of a water line in front of the store along State Highway 29.

During construction of the convenience store at SH 29 and Stonewall Parkway and removal of a tree there, crews broke the existing line twice interrupting water service to neighboring businesses. Boatright said the existing 8-inch line lacked the proper bedding.

“When we looked at what we had in the ground, it was evident that we needed to replace it and do some valving that would allow if we had a disruption from Georgetown side, we could valve it off and get water coming from Liberty Hill side,” said Boatright.

He said 1,300 feet of water line will be replaced at an estimated total cost of $57,000. CST – The Corner Store agreed to pay $30,000 of that with the City paying the remaining $27,000.

Boatright said the company needed to move along with construction of a driveway, and the matter was placed on the agenda for the Oct. 11 council meeting. When that meeting was cancelled for lack of a quorum, he discussed the issue with the Mayor “to get her okay on the project.
The timing was critical.

“So I talked to the Mayor and got her okay to go ahead and get started on the project since we had over half of the cost covered on it. We felt like it was a huge benefit to the City,” he said. “It’s a win win for both of us (CST and the City).”

Councilman Wendell McLeod, who voted no, said, “I have a problem doing this without council consent.”

There may be hope on the horizon for additional parking downtown. Boatright said parking is an ongoing concern, “but I feel like we have alternatives available now.”

He said as the city takes steps to improve drainage along Myrtle Lane in front of the Fellowship Annex (formerly the VFW Post), concrete will be poured there allowing for about 15 parking spaces along the street.

Although it isn’t official, Mayor Connie Fuller announced Monday that she reached an agreement with Chiropractor Jerry Casebolt for the City to lease property behind his building downtown to create public parking.

Fuller said Casebolt agreed to lease the property to the City for $5,000 per year. The City will be responsible for building a gravel-topped parking lot that could have as many as 40 parking spaces. The gravel lot will require approval from Planning & Zoning Commission and the Council.

A lease agreement will be developed and brought back to Council next month for approval.

In other business Monday, the Council:
– Appointed Jose Gaytan, Jr., as the Trustee for the Liberty Parke subdivision’s Public Improvement District. Gaytan’s compensation will be paid for with PID funds.
– Authorized Boatright to execute an agreement with Hilltop Securities to file reports regarding debt issuance in compliance with IRS and Securities Exchange Commission. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the appropriate reports were not filed by the City, Boatright said. Hilltop Securities is already retained as the City’s Financial Advisor.
– Approved a Final Plat for Phase 1 of Greyson (previously Highland Terrace) subdivision, which is located adjacent to the City’s regional wastewater treatment plant on US Highway 183. The subdivision will have 160 single family homes built in two phases.
– Approved the allocation of $5,000 to the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center.
– Approved the voluntary annexation of the Capitol Aggregates property on SH 29 and US 183. Language in an early development agreement with the City provided that the property would be annexed into the city if it ever changed ownership. Within the past year, Old Castle purchased the company triggering the annexation.
– Adopted Change Order #2 with Pepper-Lawson Construction for expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.

Following a 35-minute closed session, the Council voted to authorize city staff to come up with a preliminary financing plan for projects that could be completed through a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ).

Although there was no discussion on the TIRZ during the public portion of the meeting, Boatright told The Independent that TIRZ is a funding mechanism that allows cities to capitalize projects, such as improvements to municipal facilities.

He said the City would designate a zone, and as the property value increases within the zone, the City would use that incremental increase in ad valorem revenue for specific projects identified at the time the zone is designated.

Boatright said the City is considering establishing a TIRZ at Liberty Parke.

As an example, Boatright said if the zone has $3 million in value at the time it is designated, “whatever you gain in years going forward, you get to take the incremental increase and that’s dedicated to whatever projects the Council wants to adopt. You create a zone and the money raised there can be used for anything in city.”

He said the city would draw money from the increase in value, and this is not an additional tax in any form.

In his report to Council, Boatright said the new City Administration Building is expected to be complete by mid-November.

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