NEWS HEADLINES

Commissioners propose budget, tax rate

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nothing is set in stone, but Wise County’s budget for fiscal year 2015 is taking shape.

County commissioners proposed a $69.8 million budget – a $3.3 million increase over last year – in a workshop Tuesday morning.

They also agreed to keep the tax rate at 37.89 cents per $100 property valuation, as suggested by County Judge Glenn Hughes in a July 31 meeting. If approved, this means property owners would not pay more in taxes unless the value of their property increased.

Neither the budget or the tax rate will be final until commissioners formally approve them in a special meeting Monday, Sept. 8.

Prior to that, two public hearings on the tax rate will be held the first week of September. The first is 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, and the second is 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5. Both meetings will be held in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur.

Under the Texas Property Tax Code, the county is required to hold the hearings because the proposed tax rate is higher than the effective rate. If adopted, the effective rate, with this year’s property values, would raise the same amount of tax dollars as fiscal year 2014, but Hughes was concerned it wouldn’t raise enough money to balance the budget.

Although overall property values are up 5.3 percent, a $400,000 increase in county insurance almost cancels out additional tax revenue that will be generated with the current rate in the next fiscal year.

Aside from the insurance increase and a 3 percent pay raise for all county employees, county Auditor Ann McCuiston said the rest of the budget remains the same as last year with only minor changes in various departments.

The fiscal year 2015 budget also includes $5 million in capital expenditures, which accounts for the overall increase from FY ’14 to FY ’15. Last year there was no capital expenditure money in the budget.

In December, commissioners approved funding $15 million in capital expenditures with tax notes, and the money will be used over a five-year period, starting in FY ’15, to purchase equipment and vehicles for various county departments.

This is the second time the county has used a capital expenditure plan. The first was in 2008, and that debt will be paid off this fiscal year.

Commissioners’ next regular meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 25, in the courthouse in Decatur.

Read more details about the county budget in the weekend Messenger.

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