First Public Hearing on Proposed County Budget Held
Final hearing September 8, 6 p.m.
Published Sept. 7, 2011 @ 5:32 p.m.
The first of two public hearings concerning the proposed 2011-2012 Garza County budget was held September 2, 2 p.m. at Trailblazers. County Judge Lee Norman welcomed approximately 25 attendees. He began the hearing by stating that the proposed total ad valorem tax rate of $0.37809 per $100 property valuation will generate $2,716,639 for the general fund in 2011/2012 fiscal year.
The judge further explained that the ad valorem tax revenue is based on certified values and those values are $845,192,357.00, an increase of approximately $14 million over the current year. The current tax rate is $.36 and the effective rate for the 2011/2012 fiscal year is $.35472.
The entire proposed county budget for the upcoming fiscal year shows an 8 percent increase. The judge further explained that at the very beginning of the budget process, the Commissioners’ Court assessed the costs of raises for county employees so they would have that figure early on as they compared other expenses countywide. "We determined that raises for county employees were not possible at the very last of our many meetings." The judge also stated that "the absolute last cuts [to the proposed budget] were the effected job losses."
In addition, of the 14 county departments only 2 show an increase in the proposed budget. The JP department increase was due to longevity pay within the department and the District Court shows an increased because the share of district costs increased. The Lake Alan Henry Fire Department budget shows a proposed cut of 12%; the county judge’s office an 8% reduction; and a 16% reduction in the 2011/2012 budget for the Garza County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Laws provided the court with income projections for the coming fiscal year of $730,000 for the jail facility, a projected reduction of $171,000 in revenue. “This reduction precipitated the budget decrease,” explained Judge Norman.
“The City stepped up this year proposing to contribute $350,000 or 45% of law enforcement costs,” the judge said. This is a proposed increase from the city of $64,000 over the current budget year. “We appreciate the willingness of the City Council to work together with the county in this regard.” The judge emphasized that the funds from the City of Post are for dispatch and deputies’ portion of the overall law enforcement budget for the county. “The city funds are not for jail expenses.”
The areas in the Sheriff’s Department that the Commissioners’ Court saw as a means of meeting the decrease in budget were a decrease in overtime; postponing the purchase of 2 new vehicles for the department as requested by the sheriff as well as the elimination of one deputy position.
Judge Norman read from a report from a meeting he recently had with a jail standards consultant stating that “a reduction in supervisors [in the county jail facility] would be appropriate at this time and the safety and efficiency [of the facility] would not be compromised.”
The majority of the attendees at the hearing were very vocal in their opposition of the proposed decrease in the budget for the Sheriff’s Department making it difficult for others to comment or ask questions. Several Sheriff’s Department staff took part in the discussion; however, Sheriff Laws did not comment unless a question was directed to him personally.
Thressa Harp asked Sheriff Laws if there was another way to cut the $171,000 from his budget “other than cutting positions from the department.” The sheriff replied that there wasn’t any other way. He also explained that there is more competition to house prisoners and that the jail population across the area is down.
A member of the audience asked why the county was installing an elevator in the courthouse at a time when there wasn’t enough money for vehicles for law enforcement. Judge Norman explained that the county had been setting money aside for many years for the elevator. That project is fully funded and has no impact on the 2011/2012 proposed county budget.
After further discussion and comments from the audience, the public hearing adjourned at 3:35 p.m. The second public hearing is set for Thursday, September 8, 6 p.m. at Trailblazers.
The entire proposed Garza County budget is now available online at garzacounty.net, click on “County Budgets.” Budget information for each year beginning with 2007/2008 is available for comparison.
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