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County Holds the Line on Taxes

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By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – During a called meeting of the Houston County Commissioners Court, held on Tuesday morning, Aug. 6, the court announced the ad valorem tax for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 would remain the same as FY 2019.

“Our proposed tax rate (of 54 cents per $100 of property valuation) has not changed in this proposed budget,” Houston County Judge Jim Lovell said.

After the announcement, Precinct Two Commissioner Willie Kitchen requested “… a quick overview of what this tax rate supports and the differences in last year.”

Houston County Auditor Melissa Jeter said if the county keeps the same tax rate as in FY 2019, it would generate $741,000 more in property taxes.

“On the front of the budget is our required notification of $153,000 in new property. We do have our new tax note of $422,000. We did receive additional revenues – I estimated – of sales tax. We received about $50,000 in timber funds. We did, however, receive some reductions in revenues in county clerk and district clerk fees,” Jeter said.

Other declining revenue sources, according to the auditor, came from tax collection, medical fees and a reduction in the tax abatement for the Alamo gas plant.

Expense-wise, Jeter explained, health insurance costs the county approximately $40,000 on an annual basis. The county’s longevity policy costs went down while retirement medical costs and appraisal district fees went up.

“We do have an unfunded mandate of about $30,000 in the county-court-at-law judge’s salary. The state gave district judges about a 20% raise which the county-court-at-law judges are tied to the district judges. The district attorney is tied to the county-court-at-law judges, but the district attorney and district judges are both paid by the state. The county-court-at-law judge is funded by the county and they (the state) did not give us the funding to pay for it,” she said.

Jeter added utility costs went down roughly $12,000 while a new deputy sheriff’s position, along with a dispatcher’s position, were added to the budget.

Following a brief discussion of other expenses budgeted to be incurred by the county in FY 2020, a motion was made, seconded and unanimously approved to set the proposed tax rate at 0.54 per $100 of property valuation, the same as FY 2019.

Public hearings on the proposed tax rate will be held on Aug. 20 at 9 am and on Aug. 27 at 10 am. The tax rate is expected to be adopted on Sept. 10.  

Once the proposed tax rate had been approved, Tax Assessor-Collector Danette Millican provided the court with a report on the effective and roll back tax rates. She reported the effective tax rate was 0.494696 per $100 of property valuation while the roll back tax rate was 0.565403 per $100.

Millican also reported the appraisal roll for Houston County totaled $1,461,610,365.     

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.