Proposed WilCo budget includes personnel spending, possible capital improvements

Budget season in Williamson County began with a presentation from Budget Officer Ashley Koenig at the Aug. 6 Commissioners Court meeting.



As proposed, the 2013–14 fiscal year budget totals more than $224 million. It includes a general fund of $135,019,572, which is a 4 percent increase from last year's budget, as well as a road and bridge fund of $20,406,340, a 9 percent increase from last year's budget, according to Koenig's presentation. The proposed budget also allots $69,000,377 for debt services.



An additional $6 million could be included in the general budget, increasing the total to more than $141 million, if the commissioners decide to include reserve operating expenses, or cash reserves, for use on one-time capital expenditures.



"The county has a policy of keeping a certain percentage of operating expenses in reserve, basically like someone's savings account," said Connie Watson, public affairs manager for Williamson County. "We've exceeded that figure. By including it in the budget, it looks like you're spending a lot more than you're projecting to have revenue for. We're trying to use the cash reserve to do capital improvements."



The proposed general budget does include reductions in funding for equipment repairs, training money and new programs, but it also provides increases in funding for personnel-related items, technology and replacement equipment.



Budgetary increases make up $5.658 million of the proposed 2013–14 budget, 48 percent of which will go to personnel, including $322,158 for retirement pensions, $14,507 to cover part-time to full-time position transitions and $911,474 in funding for new positions.



Koenig said she had a total of 80 new positions requested and budgeted funds for 14, including three new emergency management services positions.



A "bulk" of the road and bridge fund's proposed budget, said Commissioner Cynthia Long, is slated to go to road maintenance.



Koenig said concerns about the upcoming year's budget mirrored last year's concerns.



"Facility maintenance, vehicles and compensation adjustments [were concerns]" she said. "We did cut out over $1 million for cars for the Sheriff's Office. Their request was for $2 million. To get to the number we had to come to, we had to cut $1 million in replacement vehicles for the Sheriff's Office."



Chief Deputy Larry Gaddes, from the Williamson County tax office, presented a proposed effective tax rate of 48.1839 cents per $100 of property valuation, a decrease on the current rate of 48.9029 cents.



The decrease is a result of increased certified property value in the county. First Assistant County Auditor Julie Kiley said she did not have actual property valuations from the Williamson County Appraisal District, but she gave a "conservative estimate" of just more than $135 million.



If the proposed tax rate is approved, the average homeowner could see their county taxes increase by about $22 per year, according to a presentation by Gaddes.



The average valuation of a home in Williamson County increased from $180,556 to $187,557 during the past year, County Judge Dan Gattis said.



"That's a pretty significant increase," Gattis said. "If we adopt the effective tax rate, the average homeowner's actual taxes [to the county] will go up a little less than $22."



At the recommended tax rate, $103,228,354 of the total 2013–14 county budget will come from property taxes, according to information from Kiley.



The proposed budget may be altered following modification workshops scheduled for 8 a.m.–noon on Aug. 19 and 1–5 p.m. on Aug. 20. Williamson County will hold a public hearing on the fiscal year 2013–14 budget at 10 a.m. on Aug. 27.