By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (September 12, 2016) – Erath County Commissioners Court paved the way for a new fiscal year Monday, adopting the 2016-17 budget and tax rate.
The budget, which takes effect October 1, was adopted following a public hearing, with no comments from a gallery of meeting attendees that primarily included county officials.
The coming year’s budget includes more than $24 million in expenses, up from the $23 million budgeted for the current year.
County Treasurer Donna Kelley said the budget includes a one-percent “cost of living” increase to the pay scale across all departments and a step increase when requested by office holders.
The new budget also includes $700,000 for the purchase of new voting machines, which was later explained by County Clerk Gwinda Jones. She said the current equipment is being discontinued and the supplies and replacement parts will no longer be available through the manufacturer. In addition, Jones said the current equipment has met its 10-year life expectancy.
“We are looking at potentially purchasing new equipment,” Jones said.
County Judge Tab Thompson said in order to accommodate extensive road repairs in areas that have been significantly impacted by flooding in the current fiscal year, the was a line-item increase in commissioners’ budgets. Thompson also said the county could see some of those expenses covered by FEMA following disaster declaration and see some funding trickle in from storms that occurred more than a year ago.
Meanwhile, Thompson praised officer holders for keeping expenses at a minimum.
“This is a good budget,” he said. “Thanks to office holders who continue to be good stewards of taxpayer funds… All of the things we do here in the budgeting process and with the tax rate, are done with the taxpayer in mind, aware that we do not have any money until taxes are paid.”
The tax rate remains unchanged at 47 cents, but the 2016-17 budget is expected to increase revenue from property taxes by more than five percent over the current year, with more than almost $388,000 coming from new property.
Thompson explained the tax rate saying the budget allots more $8.3 million for general operations; more than $735,000 for indigent healthcare; more than $628,000 for debt service; and more than $3.5 million for FM flood control.
He said all of the debt owned by the county, almost $4.4 million was tied to county jail improvements, but officials plan to eliminate the debt as quickly as possible.