County Judge David Silva said there could be a penny or two tax rate increase just to keep the county moving forward with a balanced budget next year.
“If we have to raise it a penny or two to have a balanced budget, I don’t think anybody would begrudge the county,” he said, reminding that it won’t be just him making the final decision but the whole commissioners court.
Commissioners were scheduled to hold a budget workshop Tuesday to begin slashing nearly $1.8 million from the proposed budget, which includes all of the departments’ “wish lists.”
However, with only Silva and Commissioner Dennis DeWitt at the morning meeting, a quorum wasn’t present.
Their next budget workshop is planned for Wednesday morning.
Looking around the area, it’s easy to see the growth.
In the north, drilling obelisks cast their shadows across the landscape.
New companies are opening doors and selling pipe and fittings, and motels and RV parks are emerging on once-vacant lots.
But Silva said, looks can be deceiving and the county’s coffer is not as flooded with money as some might perceive.
“We don’t have that many oil wells in Bee County,” he said. “Most of those are in Karnes County.”
Much of the construction is occurring within the city and not the county, he said.
Anything not in production by the first of this year won’t be on the tax rolls and can’t be taxed as part of the current budget either.
Most of the RV parks were not on the ground. The pipelines weren’t completed yet. The hotels were still in the planning stages or in preliminary stages of construction.
Even the much-talked-about cryogenic plant, or plants, were still under construction in the norther part of the county.
The $280 million Silver Oak cryogenic gas processing plant, owned by Teak Midstream, will process 200 million cubic feet of natural gas piped daily through 200 miles of high-pressure pipelines from the Eagle Ford Shale operation.
Teak Midstream reportedly expects the plant to bring in $350,000 annually to the county in tax revenues.
Silva said that this first cryogenic plant is supposed to be online by year’s end, with the second coming in February.
The third plant is still a mystery. “I don’t know when it is going to be online,” he said.
Again, he reminded, it must have been online by Jan. 1 of this year to be included in the tax rolls for their upcoming budget.
Silva said the county will know more by the 25th when the appraisal district offers their numbers to the county.
“We will have some hard figures by then,” he said.
Only then will they know just how much a penny of taxes will bring in for the county.
Long awaited raises
Silva said that the commissioners’ goal this year will be to offer raises to employees, thanks to more money coming in this year than last.
This $400K should safely fund the increase – something county employees haven’t seen in a couple of years.
“We are anticipating raises,” Silva said with confidence, reminding that they are still in the budget process though and amounts have not been set.
Silva also reminded that, compared to the other counties, they are the lowest.
“We are the lowest taxing entity in the whole area here,” he said. “Which is not a bad thing to be.
“We do a whole lot with the taxes we collect.”
Silva said that, while he understands the eagerness to spend money during this time of economic boom, it is important for the court to keep a level, frugal head.
“We need to set aside money,” he said. “We need to be prudent.
“Nothing lasts forever.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.