County passes 2020 budget

Posted 9/10/19

A disagreement over an increase in salaries nearly derailed efforts to pass the 2020 budget for Madison County Monday, but County Commissioners acquiesced in time to pass the measure without alteration.

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County passes 2020 budget

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A disagreement over an increase in salaries nearly derailed efforts to pass the 2020 budget for Madison County Monday, but County Commissioners acquiesced in time to pass the measure without alteration.

Monday’s regular, though animated, meeting of the Commissioners Court represented the second public hearing for the proposed budget, the final required by state law. If commissioners had insisted on changes, a delay could have endangered the ability for the county to have an approved budget by Sept. 30 as required.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Ricky Driskell raised an objection during discussions of the budget about a proposed 4% increase in salaries for county departments, suggesting a 3% raise instead. When other commissioners weighed in similarly, county auditor Toni Joyner advised that changes would create delays in the budget process, possibly even restarting the procedure.

“Y’all are making my nerves twitch, because I’ve been working on this for 60 days,” she told the body. “(The proposed budget) doesn’t change in about an hour.

“When you come to this table and make changes, you just rained on my next several weeks.”

The late-arriving dispute would have potentially created weeks of revisions to the document, which would have to be approved nearly sight-unseen to make the Sept. 30 deadline.

“You have to adopt a budget today that you don’t have in front of you,” Joyner warned.

The total 2020 General Fund budgeted revenue is $7.99 million in the final budget, which includes a 13.7% increase in total property taxes raised, or $203,828. Property tax revenue raised from new property – which includes improvements, mineral extractions and other items – will add $747,430.

The rise in taxes collected doesn’t represent a true increase in the tax rate, which will remain at 55 cents per $100 in valuation. Higher property values, though, effectively constituted an 11.36% in the tax rate, due to byzantine budgeting rules in Texas.

According to Joyner, total General Fund budgeted expense is $9.82 million. The overall projected expenses for the 20 funds that comprise the county’s budget would be $14.8 million,

$5 million for special funds that have restricted purposes. Overall projected revenue for 2020 will total $12.7 million, with $4.4 million for special funds that have restricted purposes.

“This is where it is crucial to know that we are utilizing previous generated revenues for current operations and not having to change our tax rate of (55 cents per $100 valuation),” she said.

County Judge Tony Leago admonished commissioners for waiting to bring the discord over salary increases until “the literal last minute.”

“There is a schedule that went out quite a while back,” he said. “Going forward and in the future, you should bring up issues like this in a more appropriate timeframe.”

The proposed budget was posted on July 31 for review and any suggested changes.

In other matters Monday, Commissioners voted down two, separate, agenda items.

First, a request to close a road in a nine-acre subdivision on Wilson Shoals Road was denied, with Driskell telling the court that it was a regularly made request that had always been turned down for lack of necessity.

Commissioners also voted to deny a request from Land of My Grandfathers in North Zulch for an exemption to the current burn ban in the county. Officials with Land of my Grandfathers, a non-profit that operates a 25-acre retreat center on Diserens Road, made the request for a charcoal fire under the promise it would be closely monitored and fire safety equipment nearby.

Commissioners expressed concern about the safety issues, but ultimately decided it was a bad idea to set precedent on providing exemptions to the ban.

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