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Commissioners Hold Public Hearings

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Proposed FY 2020 Budget, Tax Rate Discussed

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – During a relatively short meeting of the Houston County Commissioners Court, a pair of public hearings were held to give Houston County residents a chance to voice their opinions on the county’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, as well as the proposed FY 2020 tax rate.

Once the bulk of agenda items had been covered, County Judge Jim Lovell opened the public hearing on the proposed Houston County Budget for FY 2020.

As the hearings got underway County Auditor Melissa Jeter informed the court, “We have to – statutorily – put in the paper what all elected officials receive and their increases. We haven’t talked about this during the budget, but let’s talk about it now.”

“The top line is a huge, unfunded mandate we received this year,” she continued. “The district judges under House Bill 2384 receive a 20% increase. The county-court-at-law judges and the district attorneys are tied to the district judges’ salaries. They (the state of Texas) funded the district attorneys increase but they did not fund the county-court-at-law judges’ increase. They took that out at the last minute because they said they couldn’t afford it,” she said.

With no other comments, the public hearing on the proposed FY 2020 budget was closed and the public hearing on the proposed FY 2020 tax rate was opened.

The county had previously approved to set the proposed tax rate at 0.54 per $100 of property valuation, the same as FY 2019. The county’s effective tax rate for FY 2020 is 0.494696 per $100 of property valuation while the roll back tax rate is 0.565403 per $100.

There were no public comments during the tax rate hearing.    

Prior to the public hearings, the court considered the possibility of allocating more office space to the Information Technology (IT) Department.  

“Our IT employee requested to move into (Veteran Services Officer) Fred (Newtz) office because of some extra storage, room and he liked the office better. It makes a little bit of sense so the veterans don’t have to climb the stairs. Once we hire a veterans services officer, then we could move them into what is now the IT Department offices,” Jim Lovell said.

The next agenda item also pertained to the IT department and would make allowances for fuel and other expenses associated with the assignment of a county owned vehicle.

“This is an Impala the Houston County Sheriff’s Office is willing to give up,” the judge said. “The vehicle became available and we assigned it to the IT Department. This is a budget amendment to cover fuel and expense for it.”

The item was unanimously approved.

In other matters brought before the court:

  • The payment of bills and expenses incurred by the county was approved.
  • The salaries for new and/or transfer employees were approved.
  • A 2008 420E Caterpillar backhoe with a front end loader was declared as surplus and the county will be advertising for bids. 
  • The commissioners approved the renewal of liability insurance coverage with the Texas Association of Counties. 
  • The court adopted an order to call a special election to be held on Nov. 5 pertaining to amendments to the Texas Constitution. 

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

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