County Pushes for 3-Cent Property Tax Increase to Avoid Bankruptcy
SAN ANGELO, TX – Tom Green County Commissioners voted to raise property taxes in 2018 no more than three cents more than the 2017 tax rate, triggering two public hearings this month.
Frustrated by the skyrocketing cost of murder trials and cuts in state funding, Precinct One Commissioner Ralph Hoelscher read a list of 12 reasons the county had to increase property taxes.
Hoelscher said, “In order to avoid county bankruptcy and a total shutdown of county services which includes law enforcement, the County Judge, Commissioners and others shall figure an estimated amount that would fully budget the county departments, increase the employee salaries and a contingency fund available to cover unknown expenses such as lawsuits and court appointed attorneys.”
The county tax rate for FY2017 is 51.50 cents per $100 in property value. The rollback rate for FY2018 is 54.60 cents per $100 in property value. Precinct four Commissioner Bill Ford argued that they needed to raise the tax rate to the rollback rate to balance the budget. In the end, the court unanimously approved publishing a tax rate of 54.50 cents per $100 in property value, which creates a budget surplus of just over one million dollars.
Hoelscher’s list included that the proposed budget with a tax rate of 52.50 cents per $100 had a deficit of $192,665.00, and the Texas legislature passed a measure to reimburse counties for spending on defense attorneys or indigent defendants who couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer. The commissioner says the state has only reimbursed the county 5 percent of what it has spent.
Hoelscher lists that the proposed budget and tax rate does not cover the unknown costs to house prisoners in other jails, or provide a new computer system for the Justices of the Peace, or cover state mandated indigent health care. The proposal didn’t have enough funding for parks or roads or libraries and the “road department’s budgets should not be reduced to help fund court appointed attorneys.
The commissioner says the proposed budget does not provide sufficient funds for volunteer fire departments or for cost of living raises for county employees and that additional revenue needs to be generated in 2018 for the county to be able to operate sufficiently if the legislature passes a law capping the amount of revenue the county could generate.
Publishing the higher tax rate triggers two mandatory public hearings. Those hearings will be held in the Commissioner’s Court room on the second floor of the Keyes building on August 15 at 9:30 a.m. and again on August 18 at 6:00 p.m.
In other business, commissioners set county elected officials salaries at two percent higher than the current base rate. The 27 elected officials have ten days to contest the new salaries. Commissioners also voted to add one attorney to the District Attorney’s office effective August 7.