Council grants Rundzieher medical leave


Managing Editor

The City Council again met with only three members and the mayor Monday, as Council members Steve McIntosh and Liz Rundzieher were absent.

Rundzieher, who has missed the last two meetings, announced Friday on her campaign Facebook page that she had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Council member Kathy Canady added an item to the Monday agenda to propose a 90-day medical leave of absence for Rundzieher.

“We have a thing that we can’t miss three meetings in a row without having a reason to,” Canady said. “I know most of you know, but Liz has been diagnosed with cancer. I think her fear is that she needs it known that she may not be able to be here for a period of time and that’s why I asked – she asked me to ask for medical leave. She will not be at the next meeting.”

The Council passed the leave unanimously, but not before Council member Tony DeYoung asked for documentation that Rundzieher had requested the issue be brought to the Council, rather than it coming under the initiative of Canady who placed the item on the agenda.

“With all due respect, is there any correspondence from Liz herself – an e-mail or text message – for the record of her requesting the medical leave versus you asking for it?” DeYoung asked.

“I’m sure she didn’t think she had to do that,” Canady responded. “I’m sure she would be glad to get a note from her doctor.”

DeYoung clarified he was not questioning the diagnosis or looking for something from a doctor, but clarification that Rundzieher initiated the request and wanted the leave.

“She didn’t send me anything,” Canady said. “She asked me to handle it.”

Rundzieher is currently on the ballot seeking reelection. She is opposed by Angela Jones.

Budget plan
Liberty Hill will begin its budget process early this year, kicking off with its first budget workshop scheduled for May 10, and returning to an old way of discussing expense needs.

“It will be the department heads who will be standing before you,” said Finance Director Becky Wilkins. “You’re going to get to know your department heads and hear them make their spiel and they will be telling you what they want. After those are done we will come back to you with a proposed budget, trying to accommodate the things that people ask for within reason, depending on tax rates and what expected revenues are.”

The change was embraced by the Council, despite the much less public discussion of the budget through its formulation the last two years.

“I think this is what we’ve been talking about and this is what we needed and what we wanted,” said Council member Gram Lankford. “This is really, really important. This needs to continue. This is going to be good for anyone sitting up here, anyone who is elected, having face-to-face interaction with department heads.”

The new method of putting together the budget is the way it was developed and discussed prior to Rick Hall’s term as Mayor.

In both the 2019 and 2020 budget process members of the Council repeatedly expressed its faith in Hall and his leadership in preparing the budget behind closed doors, ultimately leading to almost no discussion of how departmental expenses were determined or justified.

Each budget workshop is scheduled throughout the summer months and will begin at 5:30 p.m. prior to Council meetings in most cases.

“I like the idea that we’re spreading it out and starting it early,” Canady said. “That does give us the opportunity to all be participants in this and if we don’t try to do it in the last couple of months, we do it starting now, we will all have that opportunity.”

Revenues and expenses
Wilkins gave a brief summary of revenues to date for the fiscal year, reporting that all revenue categories were well ahead of the estimated totals for the year.

The City has collected 85 percent of the budgeted property tax revenues for the fiscal year, and at 77 percent of budgeted sales tax revenues – both categories that are considered recurring revenue streams. Revenue from one-time fees such as permits is at 108 percent of the budget estimate for the year.

Total revenue in six months is 4.2 million in six months, after having budgeted 5.6 million in anticipated revenues.

“The reason I put this on here as my agenda item is because it was exciting to find out that we were halfway through the year and we had more than halfway collected the revenue we needed,” Canady said. “And our expenditures are at 47 percent, so we’re under budget. When she let me know, I really wanted the public to know where we are in our funds right now.”

Canady has previously vehemently opposed budget discussion in Council meetings since Branigan was sworn in as Mayor.

In light of the good revenue news, the Council approved adding two new positions – one being a new building inspector and the second being an executive assistant for Hale. The mid-range for the building inspector position and for the executive assistance is $59,529.

The financing of four new vehicles was also approved. The City will purchase a pair of 2021 Ford F150 trucks for the inspectors at a total cost of $54,404, a 2022 Chevy Pickup for the police department at $32,140 plus $24,496 in equipment, and a 2019 Ford F350 for the water department at $45,522 after the addition of equipment for the truck.

The annual cost for the vehicles is $35,720 for five years.

Community center
The price tag for the new community center near the northwest corner of RM 1869 and Loop 332 increased Monday with the first change order for the project, though City staff said this increase was expected and budgeted for when the bonds were approved for the project.

“This is to add fire hydrants and water line for the community center,” said Curtis Steger of Steger Bizzell Engineering. “The original plan did not have any utility improvements and they were expected but were not included at the original start date.”

The addition includes a six-inch water line and a six-inch water line into the building for fire suppression at a total cost of $92,728. The change adds 10.8 percent to the total cost, and brings it to $951,371.

“We knew this expense was coming but we didn’t have the final dollar amount for it, so this is what the change order is for,” Hale said.

The bid was awarded to Jimmy Jacobs Construction in October for the renovation of the former County barn.

The Council heard estimates for the project ranging from $500,000 with potential grant funds to help cover costs back in January 2020, then a higher projection last July of $750,000 with no grant possibilities, the approved bid in October was $858,643.

In January, the Council approved the sale of $2.56 million in bonds to cover the cost of construction for the Community Center, the planned swim center and renovations at City Hall. The bond is a seven-year note.

The Council gave its approval to a new Municipal Utility District (MUD) in the City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for the El Dorado Estates neighborhood. The development will be just to the west of Ronald Reagan Boulevard and north of Santa Rita, totaling 334 acres, with 198 acres of single family and multi-family residential, as well as green space and 12 acres of land to be dedicated to a school site. The development will ultimately have 1,160 single family homes.