For the second straight year, Bee County government leaders plan to spend more money than the county will receive in revenue this coming budget year.
Commissioners agreed informally to dip into the reserve fund and ask for a 3-cent tax rate increase to make up the difference in revenue and expenditures.
The public will have an opportunity on Monday to comment on the proposed tax rate hike.
The public hearing begins at 6 p.m. in the commissioners courtroom, located on the first floor of the Bee County Courthouse.
The proposed tax rate hike will help fund the proposed budget.
The proposed budget calls for a 3 percent pay raise for all employees, including elected officials.
The budget goes into effect Oct. 1 and will finance general operations through Sept. 30, 2009.
Budget planners expect the county to take in $6,737,695 million in revenue this year to finance the general fund.
The general fund account finances general governmental operations, such as paying for clerks, utilities for the courthouse and equipment and supplies.
The county also collects taxes to maintain and improve roads and bridges, which is an account separate from the general fund.
Of the $6.7 million in revenue earmarked for the general fund, $3,336,575 will come in the form of property tax revenue, and $354,000 of that from the proposed 3-cent tax hike.
Budget planners also expect the county to receive another $1,100,000 in sales tax revenue over the next 12 months, $97,000 in delinquent taxes, $3,000 from licenses and permits.
Department heads submitted budget requests of some $7.1 million at the beginning of the summer, but commissioners slashed expenditures to roughly $6,875,135 by the end of August — $137,440 more than the county will receive in revenue.
Those budget cuts included rejecting requests by some departments to hire several new employees, reducing three full-time jobs to part-time positions and using one employee to work in a justice of the peace’s office part of the time and work in the county judge’s office the rest of the time.
It should be noted that the budget filed in the county clerk’s office by the county auditor does not reflect the figures discussed during numerous budget workshops. For instance, commissioners were slashing their budget in the belief that the county would have $6.6 million in revenue on hand at the beginning of the year. County leaders also believed they would have to dip into the budget to make up a $125,000 shortfall this coming budget year.
Rather than cut more jobs and services, commissioners reluctantly agreed last month to dip into the reserve fund to make up the remaining $137,440 shortfall, which would balance the budget.
The county will go into the new budget year with a reserve fund of $940,668 earmarked for the general fund, or about 1 3/4 months worth of operating revenue. However, by the end of the budget year, the county will have about 1 1/2 months of operating revenue in the general fund’s reserve fund.
Ideally, the county should have about five or six months of revenue in its reserve fund to finance emergencies in departments funded through the general fund, County Judge David Silva said.
Tax rate increase
Silva said the 3-cent tax rate increase is needed to help make ends meet.
Bee County taxpayers presently pay just at 44 cents for every $100 worth of property they own. However, a significant increase in the value of taxable property countywide will force the 44-cent tax rate to drop to around 38 cents per $100 value. At that rate, the county can effectively generate the same amount of tax revenue as it presently does with the 44-cent tax rate.
Bee County Tax Assessor-Collector Andrea Gibbud said property values countywide increased by $144 million since last October.
She said much of the property value increase is due to an increase in oil and gas exploration.
County leaders plan to raise the tax rate to just over 41 cents per $100 value this coming budget year to generate the additional $354,000 in property tax revenue.
That means the owner of a $100,000 home can expect to pay $410 in property taxes to the county over the next 12 months before exemptions, $30 less than the $440 they paid this year.
Commissioners have scheduled the second mandatory public hearing on the proposed tax rate for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, in the commissioners courtroom.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the adoption of the budget and tax rate at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22.
3 percent pay raise
The proposed 3 percent across-the-board pay raise for employees will be funded with the interest accumulated in the county’s health care fund.
Christus Spohn Health System leases the county-owned hospital in Beeville for about $900,000 annually.
Christus Spohn has agreed to allow commissioners to use the interest generated by the lease payments to finance the employee pay raises.