County Commissioners Set Tax Rate, Approve Budget

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY –  Houston County Commissioners Court met Tuesday, Sept. 12 to set the new tax rate for the county, approve funding for employee pensions and prepare for the November elections. 

The commissioners held public hearings on the tax rate and county budget for the upcoming year, which the commissioners had already proposed. The rate will remain at $0.448 and was approved by the commissioners. 

The county budget was also approved, with Houston County Auditor Melissa Jeter telling the commissioners, “This was a really really good budget and everyone worked really hard on it. Thank you again for all of your hard work.”

Houston County Judge Jim Lovell agreed, telling Jeter he could not do his job as budget officer without her and thanked everyone for getting the complicated county budget finished. 

The commissioners also discussed the county’s participation in the Texas County and District Retirement System (TCDRS) and the county’s rate of participation for pensions for retiring county employees. 

The current rate is set at 140%, but the commissioners discussed “biting the bullet” and increasing this to 150% which would cost the county a little over $30,000 a year. An increase to 175% was discussed, but this would cost over $100,000 per year and was rejected. 

Precinct Three Commissioner Gene Stokes laid out the realities of the job and hiring situation, pointing out the county is in danger of falling further behind the current job market. Stokes said for example, when hiring equipment operators with a CDL, they are making $30 to $40 an hour in the free world, but not as much for the county.

“All we have to offer them is our retirement package,” Stokes pointed out. “If we don’t start somewhere, we are going to be so far behind, we can’t catch up.”

Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove told the court a higher rate would help him retain better employees in his department, too. 

In other business the court approved:

  • A body camera and service contract for Precinct Two Constable
  • Modifications in positions in several departments based on the recommendations of the Human Resources Committee 
  • Accepting bids for repair projects in Precinct Two to CR 2210 and CR 2205
  • Upgraded sound systems for the County and District Courtrooms

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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