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Hays County looks to keep taxes flat for coming year

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The Hays County Commissioners Court has acted to lock itself into a 2011 tax rate that will be no higher than 48.30 cents, the effective rate for 2010. That figure represents the rate that would generate the same amount of revenue as the county got this year.

 

Because of a decline in property values, the current tax rate is 46.92 cents would generate less revenue for the county in 2011.

 

The new commitment will keep the court from having to host public hearings on the tax rate. Further budget action is expected to come Monday, when the commissioners will try to firm up the balance sheets for the county’s departments and decide whether or not to offer a pay increase to elected officials.

 

All this comes as County Judge Liz Sumter moved to set August 31as the drop-dead date for budget tinkering. With the Hays budget marked for a September 15 adoption, that would give county departments more than the over-10-days mandated by law to review their allowances. It will also make room for the court to conduct a public hearing on the plan as a whole.

 

Though the county is coming to the end of its budget process, some commissioners have indicated that they hope to be able to deliver a rate even lower than 48.30 cents. Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley, for one, is holding out for the same rate as last year. “We’re basically $1 million away from not having a tax rate increase,” he said.

 

“If we need $1 million to get to our current tax rate, I believe … we can possibly try to get there,” he added. “I was waiting for the numbers from (staff) … and I want to certainly do some detailed analysis before our final vote is taken.”

 

Current estimates have the county spending roughly $250 million over the course of the 2011 fiscal year. One million dollars would represent less than a 1 percent reduction in that figure.

 

Conley noted that it was “important” for the court to try and keep taxes at the 2010 rate while not affecting the current level of service provided by the county. He is the court’s only serving Republican.

 

Though any such reduction might seem like something of a stretch under current economic conditions, one other commissioner thinks that the court can knock at least a few fractions of a cent off of what was posed yesterday. Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton noted that the court has already “identified cuts that would get us down to somewhere between 48.10 and 48.20 cents.” He added that the county might also see “some additional revenue.”

 

“Depending on what we want to do this year with some programs — some road projects, whether we want to defer them or not … we (think) we (are) pretty close to being there … between 47.9 and 48.1 or .2,” he continued.

 

Barton is the Democratic candidate for the Hays judgeship in November. He defeated Sumter in the party’s March primary.

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