The Hunt County Commissioners Court spent Tuesday morning hearing from additional county residents who voiced their opposition to the proposed Hunt County budget and tax rate.
Bryan Slaton of Royse City urged the commissioners to focus on increasing the fund balance in the budget, rather than the proposed tax rate, which despite a slight decrease results in a significant property tax increase.
“We need help, we need relief,” Slaton said. “Please help us.”
Robert Hernandez of Union Valley felt likewise.
“You people don’t make money, you take it from us,” Hernandez said. “We need a break. We need a break.”
Tuesday’s session was the second scheduled public hearing on the budget and tax rate. A final public hearing and planned votes on the budget and tax rate are scheduled at 10 a.m. next Tuesday Aug. 27 in the Auxiliary Courtroom at 2700 Johnson Street in Greenville.
A new budget and tax rate must be adopted by the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1.
The proposed property tax rate is 50.8512 cents per $100 valuation, compared to the current tax rate of 51.1899 cents per $100 valuation.
The effective tax rate is set at 47.1596 cents, which would be the tax rate needed to raise the same amount of property tax revenue for the county from the same properties in both the current fiscal year and the 2019/20120 tax year.
County Judge Bobby Stovall said he and the rest of the commissioners court understood what the county’s residents are going through.
“We are all very conscious of the taxpayer,” Stovall said, noting that he and the other commissioners are also taxpayers.
Stovall stressed that the majority of the county budget was dedicated to items such as judicial, law enforcement and jail and corrections accounts on which the county is mandated by law to spend.
He explained how the Texas Legislature continues to require the county to pay for state mandates, without providing any additional revenue to pay for them. One such “unfunded mandate” came this year as the state lawmakers raised the pay for all of the judges and staffs of the district courts.
“They raised the salaries almost $100,000 that the taxpayers have to pay for,” Stovall said.
During the public hearings, several individuals have also been critical of the sharp rise in property values, which also affected their tax bills.
Stovall said much of the problem again falls on the state.
“The appraisal district is set by the state and is audited by the state,” Stovall said, with state officials setting the guidelines for appraisal values.
Stovall said several area school districts had their state funding cut when they didn’t raise property values.
“He (Chief Appraiser Brent South) has to meet those guidelines or we lost state funding,” Stovall said.
The commissioners approved taking $10 million from the fund balance in this year’s budget to help pay for expected repairs and maintenance at the Hunt County jail, courthouse and other county offices, as well as for county roads.
The budget also includes a $1.2 million increase, to pay for an across the board raise for county employees.
The rollback rate, the highest tax rate the county may adopt before voters are entitled to petition for an election to limit the rate to the rollback rate, is 50.8513 cents per $100 valuation.
The proposed rate will raise more total property taxes than the current budget by $3,611,548 million or 12.341 percent, and of that amount $1,138,655 is tax revenue raised from new property added to the tax roll this year.