SAN ANGELO, TX — Tom Green County Commissioners Tuesday got an earful from a packed courtroom of taxpayers who are opposed to a proposed property tax increase and raises for elected officials. Among the eight citizens there to lecture commissioners was Dusty Thompson. A trial over Thompson's cattle rustling indictment has been pending in the Tom Green County judicial system since his arrest in late 2016.
The court held the first of two mandatory tax rate hearings following their regular meeting. In all, eight people addressed the court in the two hour meeting.
County Judge Steve Floyd opened the meeting showing the crowd a proposed budget analysis which shows they expect to raise $33,481,562 in property tax at a proposed tax rate of .55182 cents per $100 in property value. The County's total proposed budget is $50,784,794 including sales tax revenue and fines and fees.
The proposed budget includes a five percent total raise for employees starting in October; that's a two percent cost of living raise, two percent for merit raises and one percent for jobs which have a high turnover rate like jailers, maintenance personnel and road and bridge employees.
Judge Floyd said they have commissioned a salary study and he has budgeted another five percent raise for January based upon the results of the salary study.
The proposed budget also includes a 3.5 percent raise for the county's 28 elected officials.
Accused cattle rustler, local business owner and Pecan Creek Volunteer Department Chief Dusty Thompson said every elected official knew what the salary was when they were elected and they shouldn't be asking for a raise. Thompson also said county roads are in terrible shape and all he hears is how great law enforcement officers are. He said individuals who donate their time as volunteer fire fighters don't get a raise and neither do tow truck drivers and they're both as important as law enforcement officers. Thompson owns a local towing company.
Thompson also complained about what he called silly arrests costing taxpayers money. Thompson was arrested at the end of 2016, accused of stealing his neighbor's cows, and his trial date has been canceled at least 11 times over more than 1.5 years in political maneuvering. His case was last supposed to go to trial this week, but Thompson made a request from the court reporter for the full transcripts of every hearing in his case since 2016, delaying his trial date once again. His twelfth scheduled trial date is set for Sept. 19.
Judge Floyd explained that the criminal justice system, the jail and the court system, drive the county budget.
Floyd said at the end of 2018, there were 15 pending murder cases in Tom Green County and one capital murder case. Floyd said five more murder suspects have been arrested this year. Murder cases are very expensive and taxpayers normally pay for the prosecution and the courts and now pay for the defense attorneys for defendants as well.
Other individuals who addressed the court spoke out about state taxes and what happened to property tax relief the Governor and the legislature passed during the recent legislative session.
The final mandatory public hearing on the proposed tax rate for Tom Green County will be held next Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Court meeting room on the second floor of the Keyes building at 113 W. Beauregard. The Court is expected to adopt a budget and tax rate on September 3.