Benny Boyd

County projects no tax increase, negotiations ongoing

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

Although several points remain contentious in discussions of Caldwell County’s budget for the upcoming year, one thing that seems certain is the Commissioners’ Court’s intention not to raise the tax rate this year.

During a lengthy budget discussion on Monday morning, the Commissioners, in a unanimous vote, decid

ed to continue with their budget preparations assuming a total tax rate of $0.6910 per $100 of valuation, the same total rate adopted by the Court for the last two years.

Because of increases in property values in Caldwell County, that rate will cause a slight increase in the total tax levied by the county, around $320,000.

A sticking point in the current budget talks is the likelihood that county employees will not receive a cost of living increase this year. If they do, it will likely be in the form of a lump sum, payable once late this calendar year, rather than a percentage increase which might not be sustainable for the county.

County Judge Ronnie Duesterheft said during the meeting he knew it would be a daunting task, presenting a balanced budget and determining what cuts might need to be made. Overall, he said, upwards of $1 million was skinned off this budget versus original requests made by department heads.

There is still work to be done on the budget.

One point which Duesterheft suggested is the possibility of severing the long-standing relationship with the Lockhart Animal Shelter, which currently services Lockhart and Caldwell County. Sheriff Daniel Law had suggested that an animal shelter to service the county’s needs could be built at the jail, and staffed by inmates – a reduction in cost he said would not result in a lapse in services.

That point, however, remains under discussion.

A public hearing regarding the county’s budget and proposed tax rate is scheduled on Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, at 9 a.m., during the regular meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioner’s Court.

In other business during their Monday meeting, the Commissioners voted to enter a settlement agreement in the amount of $8,390.40 with a plaintiff who filed suit against the county earlier this year, charging unpaid wages.

The suit, sources said, was the result of confusion in the structuring of the work week for certain employees of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office. Since the suit was filed, the policy has been addressed by the Court to avoid further allegations that employees are being paid improperly.

The Court also discussed an outdoor burning ban.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker presented a county map showing that a large portion of Caldwell County is approaching a danger rating of “moderate,” on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, the industry standard for determining wildfire danger. Although he suggested a burn ban wasn’t yet necessary, he alluded to the idea he may recommend beginning a ban next week.

In the meantime, Parker suggested, rural property owners should consider working with the Caldwell County AgriLife Extension to discuss the possibility of “prescribed burns” to reduce available fuel, and thereby decrease wildfire danger in rural areas of the county.

He also said those who chose to have controlled burns should remain vigilant, and contact the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office at (512) 398-6777 prior to burning, so dispatchers will be notified about controlled burns.

In brief news:
In accordance with state law and at the recommendation of Unit Road Administrator Dwight Jeffrey and attorney Ron Heggemeier, the Commissioners adopted a “classification,” of all county roads. “Classifying” the roads, does not change how roads will be handled, Heggemeier said, simply makes the county compliant with state regulations.

They voted to leave fees for service of process charged by the Sheriff’s Office and the Caldwell County Constables unchanged.

The County paid bills in the amount of $197,451.76, which includes $29,773.75 in indigent defense and $84.55 for indigent health care.

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the first -floor courtroom of the Caldwell County Courthouse.
kathbliss@post-register.com

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