Last year’s tax rate of 29.43 cents per $100 taxable value generated $9.9 million in revenue for the county. The proposed tax rate of 18.7 cents per $100 taxable value is expected to raise $12.46 million in revenue.
In an interview with The Karnes Countywide Monday, Sue Carter, who is a resident of Karnes County said she hopes the court will adopt the same rate as last year, instead of dropping the rate, as a way to generate an additional $7.14 million that she said could be used for many different purposes, or even just saved for a “rainy day.”
Carter has encouraged the court to keep the same tax rate several times throughout the year and she was surprised that they chose to select the rollback rate of 18.7 cents instead of a rate that would have generated millions more in funding for county projects.
“I do feel like the county commissioners and the county judge were misled into believing that their only options were the effective rate (14.9 cents) or the rollback rate (18.7 cents),” Carter said. “They were presented that by the tax collector and she said, ‘This is what you have to do.’ As though that was their only choice.”
Carter said the recommendation may have been made in an effort to avoid the possibility of a rollback election. A rollback election, Carter emphasized, would be unlikely and difficult for a resident to bring forward. Even at 29.43 cents, the rate still would be significantly lower than the 2010 rate of 50 cents, she said.
“Who is going to be so determined... to sign a rollback petition,” Carter said. “The risk is zero. I would bet the farm.”
If the court voted for the 29.34 cent rate after publishing the lower rollback rate, there would be the risk that someone could file an injunction with the district court, Carter said. She added that for the sake of an additional $7.14 million in revenue, that risk is one worth taking.
Carter said that if the court approves the 14.9 cent rate, she believes that Karnes County would then have the lowest tax rate in the state of Texas, and after dropping it so low, due to statutory limitations, it will take many years to bring it back to the 2012 tax rate. Counties can only raise their rate by a maximum of eight percent per year without the possibility of a rollback election, Carter noted.
The proposed budget is a deficit budget, with more planned in spending than projected revenues. The proposed budget lines out $25.15 million in spending with significant increases to several county departments.
Last year’s budget for the sheriff’s office listed total expenditures at $1.74 million. The new budget increases spending by $1.45 million – an 83-percent increase in spending.
Last year’s budget for the Road and Bridge department listed total expenditures of $3.48 million. The new budget increases spending by $2.6 million – a 74-percent increase in spending.
Proposed spending increases in various other county departments have pushed the budget to a total of $25.15 million in spending, but the proposed record-low tax rate would not generate enough tax revenue to sustain that large of an increase.
County Auditor Lajuana Kasprzyk told The Karnes Countywide Monday that several changes have been made to the proposed county budget since it was approved for filing and she expects more changes will happen before the court considers voting to adopt the new tax rate and budget at the Sept. 30 meeting.