Tom Green County Raises Taxes Citing Rapidly-Rising Criminal Justice Costs
SAN ANGELO, TX – Citing an increase in the cost of dealing with violent crime and the criminal justice system in general, Tom Green County Commissioners Tuesday adopted a budget and a tax rate for FY 2020 which is eight percent higher than FY 2019.
During their regular weekly meeting, the Commissioners Court recessed the regular meeting to hold a public hearing on the proposed budget and take public comment and answer questions regarding the budget. According to the agenda, the budget will raise more total property tax revenue than last year's budget by $3,133,412 or 8.7 percent and of that $411,425 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year.
There was no public comment during the hearing. County Judge Steve Floyd said they had made a number of last minute changes to the budget and the largest item was a one time $400,000 for road projects like the low water crossing at Mineral Wells Park on the S. Concho River near Christoval. The low water crossing flooded last fall and continued to be under water for several months due to heavy rainfall. Mineral Wells Rd. is the only public access for dozens of home owners who live in the area beyond low water crossing. When it floods during downpours, the crossing is under water and creates a dangerous situation. With no heavy rains recently, the water level has since subsided but the water crossing continues to be a concern for residents.
The budget includes funding for an additional 14 jailers when the new Tom Green County jail is completed and becomes operational in January 2020.
Judge Floyd also explained they added $55,000 for parking lot maintenance at several county buildings downtown.
Following two public hearings on the tax rate, Judge Floyd said they added $25,000 for operating costs for the ten volunteer fire departments in the county. Floyd said Pecan Creek VFD Chief Dusty Thompson told him they were responding to fires and wrecks and had received grants for vehicles and equipment but hadn't had an increase in operating revenue in years. Volunteer Fire Departments rely mostly on donations for operating expenses.
With the last minute changes to the budget, the county projects total revenue of $50,770,597 with total expenditures of $51,313,102 creating a projected operational loss of $542,000 while maintaining a 25 percent fund balance of about $12,000,000.
The court took a record vote and adopted the FY 2020 budget unanimously.
Judge Floyd said, "I'm hoping the tax rate starts coming down next year. Everything is tied to criminal justice. Criminal defense alone accounts for .04 cents of the tax rate."
The overall tax rate will remain the same for taxpayers in the San Angelo Independent School District. Floyd said the SAISD is reducing its tax rate by about .08 cents per $100 in property value after the Texas Legislature this session approved pumping $5 billion in new state money into public schools. "The magic of state money is allowing school districts to reduce rates even though it's all taxpayer money." Floyd said.
Then came the property tax rate to fund that budget. Commissioners adopted and ratified a tax rate of .55117 cents per $100 in property value which is a 7.99 percent increase over last year's rate. Had commissioners adopted a tax rate increase greater than 8 percent, taxpayers could've petitioned for a rollback election which could've rolled the tax rate back to the current rate of .5450 cents per $100 in property value. The increase adopted and ratified Tuesday amounts to an increase of about $40.78 for a home valued at $100,000.
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