The Hays County Commissioners Court approved the fiscal year 2021-22 budget and tax rate in a regular meeting on Sep. 21. The commissioners held budget workshop meetings with public hearings throughout August to receive feedback from the community. The new tax rate has been set to $0.3867, which is the lowest it has been since 1990. Though lower compared to last year’s rate of $0.4212, the new rate is expected to generate $606,995 more in revenue according to Hays County Commissioners Court documents.
Despite this year’s tax rate being the lowest in over 30 years, citizens were still upset and demanded an even lower tax rate to accommodate the rising property values throughout the county.
“We need to drop the tax rate even further because you are making people lose their homes,” said Dan Lyon, a resident within Hays County. He added that the property he purchased in the 1970s has increasingly gone up in taxes and value over time.
The property tax rate of the county is not the first to be lower than previous years. In August, Kyle City Council approved a tax rate that was approximately 2% lower than the year prior. However, residents also spoke up about how the decrease does not offset the increasing property values via evaluations and appraisals.
Prior to the approval of the budget, Anita Collins, on behalf of the office of the Hays County Judge, brought forth three items that need funding. The first was an item of $250,000 for planning for a new mental health facility with a dedicated veterans wing that would include 48 beds and in-patient treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
“The ultimate goal is to design, plan and implement an integrated mental health system that will effectively and efficiently meet the mental health needs of the changing and growing Hays County community,” Collins said.
Additionally, $100,000 was requested for a regional emergency response and evacuation center. It would serve as a disaster center that could provide testing and vaccinations during instances such as the COVID-19 pandemic. While not in use as an emergency center, it would double as an event center and add tourism to the county.
Finally, $75,000 was requested for planning and determining the cost and budget of a new animal shelter. While the county has the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, Hunter Schuler, a graduate of Texas State University, noted that it services the entire county, and over half of the animals received are taken in from outside of San Marcos.
When all the animals were accounted for, both sheltered and fostered, the shelter is operating at over 70% capacity, Schuler said. The shelter has worked over the years to achieve "no kill" status, meaning the shelter has a 90% placement rate for all animals, according to the presentation. However, as a last resort due to overcrowding, the shelter had to euthanize 10 dogs in September.
While funding was not secured for these projects during the meeting, representatives stated that they will continue to be discussed and potentially added to agendas at future meetings.
The next commissioners court meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 9 a.m. at the Hays County Historical Courthouse, 111 E. San Antonio St., San Marcos.