Montgomery County Commissioners Court has discussed its fiscal year 2017-18 budget since Tuesday during daily budget workshops this week. During this time, county department managers have discussed the needs of their departments with commissioners.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. The county will create 56.5 new jobs. Of those, 53.5 new jobs are law enforcement positions.

  4. The county retirement program is funded at 89.3 percent under the proposed budget.

  5. 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.