Heads of several Williamson County departments met with county commissioners April 17 to make their cases for budget requests ahead of the fiscal year 2019-20 budget season.
County Judge Bill Gravell said county departments had requested 174 new personnel but that he would be surprised if the county’s budget office recommended 40 positions following request reviews. Gravell added that the cost to fund all the positions would be upwards of $15 million.
“It is not the intent of this county judge to ever support 174 new positions,” Gravell said. “I understand the request for employees. … But there are things we have under our control and things we don’t have under our control.”
About 70 of the 174 additional personnel requests were made in person before the court on Wednesday by department heads who could make the meeting, which included part- and full-time employees and increased budgets for equipment and supplies.
During the meeting, Gravell said the county still does not know how members of the 86th Texas Legislature will finalize property tax reform, and its effect may greatly impact the county. He said if the proposed 2.5% property tax revenue cap that would require voter approval for the county to levy more than 2.5% in tax revenue from the previous year was to stick, the county would have to cut back about $100,000 a week in expenditures.
The Senate has also proposed a 3.5% cap that would allow for more breathing room for taxing entities, but the calculations would include bond debt and certificate of obligations.
“If that [Senate] proposal would occur, that would be catastrophic to this county. We would be at the point of, ‘What services do we cut?’” Gravell said.
County Tax Assessor/Collector Larry Gaddes said before the end of the meeting that in order for Williamson County taxpayers to see any significant relief to their tax bills, the county would have to make massive cuts.
For example, Gaddes said if a homeowner had a $300,000 house, the county would have to completely eliminate its entire jail and law-enforcement departments for them to save less than $20 a month. The county would have to eliminate the entire emergency services department for them to save $7 a month. And if Round Rock ISD got rid of all sports and athletic programs in the entire district, they would save $8 a month.
“We’re talking about huge, huge cuts to everyone’s budget to have a significant impact on taxpayers,” Gaddes said.
County departments have until May to submit any budget request before the budget department reviews and puts together a recommended budget. The recommend budget is presented to the Commissioners Court in July and finalized by Sept. 1. Fiscal year 2019-20 begins Oct. 1.