This year, commissioners asked county departments to reduce budgets by 5 percent in order to accommodate revenue that was lost after approving a 20 percent homestead exemption on property taxes in March. The homestead exemption accounts for a difference of $15.6 million in revenue for FY 2017-18 compared to FY 2016-17, county Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae said.
At the end of the budget workshops, county officials proposed a $328.75 million budget, a 5.51 percent decrease from the $347.91 million budget for FY 2016-17.
Although it is not required, commissioners also voted to hold public hearings for the budget Aug. 8 and 22 during regular Commissioners Court meetings. A third hearing set for Sept. 5 will be held to discuss and approve the proposed budget and property tax rate.
Here are several notable updates this year that stem from the new proposed budget:
- Commissioners voted to propose a $0.4667 tax rate for FY 2017-18. The tax rate is the same as the existing tax rate for FY 2016-17.
- County commissioners agreed to create a county budget office during Friday's workshop. The county manages an approximate $300 million annual budget and about $400 million in debt. As it stands, County Auditor Phyllis Martin and her staff manage functions of the budget office. The county will set aside about $300,000 in funds dedicated to the creation of the office. The office will be created and staff will be hired in time to prepare the FY 2019-20 budget.
- The county will create 56.5 new jobs. Of those, 53.5 new jobs are law enforcement positions.
- The county retirement program is funded at 89.3 percent under the proposed budget.
- Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador proposed a 3 percent increase in pay for county employees who earn less than $60,000 per year. Meador said the county has the funds to grant the raises. However, other commissioners did not support the proposal for a variety of reasons. County Judge Craig Doyal said he could not support raises for only a subsection of employees, while Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, backed by the other commissioners, said they would support creating a merit-based raise program next year.