Commissioners hold hearing and pass budget, adopt tax rate
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Coryell County commissioners held a special meeting on Monday, during which they held the second public hearing for the fiscal year 2017-2018 budget, approved several requested budget changes from county departments for the fiscal year 2017-2018 budget, and also set the 2017 property tax rate.
“One of the challenges I’ve been telling people is that crime had a vote this year,” said Coryell County judge John Firth of some of the changes and adjustments made to the proposed budget during the planning process, and when developing the county’s budget overall.
Crime isn’t just up in the county, but major crimes are also up, with those individuals remaining in the county jail a longer time than other offenders.
“The whole function and purpose of the county government in Texas is supporting the judicial process and law enforcement and other mandated functions. Our major crimes to include our capital murder cases have driven the creation of the 440th district court, and for FY ‘18, that will be the first year it will be up and running the entire year,” Firth added.
Both the 440th and 52nd District Courts requested more funding this year, to the tune of $160,466 and $204,000, respectively. The commissioners supported $116,000 and $184,000 of that requested funding, respectively. The district attorney’s office received an additional $155,000, which also includes the addition of two more employees for that office. The sheriff’s office also requested $386,418 and received $506,000 in additional funding, part of that funding which goes to hire three more employees. All the additional funding requests supported by the commissioners include health insurance and other associated personnel costs not calculated in the request.
One area of the budget losing funding is the county’s indigent defense fund, or court-appointed attorneys, another mandate that the county must support.
“The state budget this year has decreased the little bit of funding they provide for court appointed attorneys,” Firth said. “The U.S Constitution and state law both require us to appoint an attorney. County taxpayers pay the vast majority, but funding from the state will decrease by 9 percent for the next two years. It only keeps getting more challenging because the state budget keeps providing less for those mandates.”
For the next fiscal year, set to begin on October 1, 2017, the county has budgeted $870,000 for its prisoner “board,” which it uses to pay other counties which house overflow inmates from the Coryell County jail. That amount is up from $700,000 budgeted for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, with the amount expended in the first nine months of the current fiscal year at just over $600,000.
Additional requested jail funding is increased $417,000 overall, with one additional jail employee included in that funding.
The county’s Road and Bridge Department received additional funding of $370,000 for the next fiscal year, with the majority of that funding being dedicated to road and bridge material totaling $1,136,112, up from the $886,810 budgeted for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Also included in the increase is an additional employee for that department.
Where revenue is concerned, the county is budgeting for a net total of $15,548,693.14 in property tax, sales tax, and other revenues, up from last year’s budget of $14,297,261.27, or 8 percent. However, with the budgeted expenditures of $16,476,190.64, leaving a deficit of $927,497.50 which will be absorbed by some of the county’s beginning fund balance of $5,039,058, leaving the county with $4,111,560.50 for next year.
The commissioners also voted on Monday morning to adopt the 2017 ad valorem tax rate for Coryell County property, with a rate of 54.53 cent per $100 taxable value. This rate will raise $1,337,752 more in revenue, or 11.02%, compared to last year, with $266,574 in new taxable property added to the tax rolls. Presently, the county’s debt is $1,513,601, a ratio of $0.022320, slightly higher than last year.