At their meeting this week, the Lubbock City Council passed the 2011 tax rate and the final reading of the 2011-2012 operating budget.

District 1 Councilman Victor Hernandez offered an amendment which would have taken $1.32 million out of the City’s Economic Development fund and put it into the Maintenance and Operation Fund to cover health and dental insurance increases placed on City employees, rather than have the employees pay the $22 gap. The motion failed 4 to 3.

District 3 Councilman Todd Klein offered an amendment to the budget which would have shifted revenues of almost $133,600 to Maintenance and Operations from Market Lubbock, which also failed 4 to 3.

District 5 Councilwoman Karen Gibson made a compromise friendly amendment, which raises the city’s sales tax projection by half a percent to fund the health insurance gap for City employees, but not their spouses and City retirees. The budget, complete with Gibson’s amendment, passed 6 to 1, District 2 Councilman Floyd Price dissenting.

Hernandez discussed areas where he believes the City’s budget should be trimmed, which included closing the three City swimming pools and having one aquatic center, revisiting the City’s commitment to the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center and Municipal Auditorium, and possibly placing the Silent Wings Museum and the Buddy Holly Center into the care of the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts.

“We can’t continue to run the City as we have in the past, and I’m willing to take a political hit to start having some serious discussion here,” Hernandez continued.

Included in the newly-approved budget are stormwater fee increases, raising residential fees by $2 and commercial fees $13.27 per water meter. That means residents will now pay $14 monthly for their residential meter, and businesses will pay $92.92 for their meters.

Some residents disagreed with the increases. Former Lubbock mayoral candidate and political activist Mikel Ward said “These small businesses that have nothing more than a powder room and a water hookup are being charged this $93 a month for storm water. They can’t absorb that. That gets passed right back on to us as customers…it is a huge burden”

Rates for Citibus riders will also increase by 25 cents, bringing the total of a three-day pass to $3.50. In return for the rate increase, buses will continue to run on their current schedule of every half hour during operating times, as opposed to the originally proposed cuts of having buses run every hour.

They also set the 2011 property tax rate at 47.4 cents per $100 valuation, up from 2010’s 45.617 cent rate. The 2011 rate increase will cause taxes on a $100,000 home to go up just under $17.50. The tax rate was approved 5 to 2, Mayor Tom Martin and District 4 Councilman Paul R. Beane voting against the rate.