By Kathi Bliss
After several months of struggling with growing expenses in a wilting economy, the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court grudgingly passed a budget that does not include a tax increase for property owners, but also does not allow a pay raise for employees.
Over the objections of Commissioner Tom Bonn, who later said he opposed the tax rate and the addition of certain positions within the county, the commissioners voted to approve a budget predicated on upwards of $13 million in revenues and more than $12 million in expenditures.
Although the tax rates did not increase, according to Caldwell County Judge H.T. Wright, the approved total tax rate of $0.691 does fall above the “effective rate,” the rate which would be required to generate the same income as the previous tax year.
Most of that difference, Wright said earlier in budget negotiations, can be attributed to increases in appraised value and new growth in the county.
Wright has said in the past that, because they lead a poor county, the Commissioners are charged with creating as tight a budget as they can. To the chagrin of many county employees, part of that “belt tightening” this year involved voting not to increase pay for any county employee or elected official.
However, the new budget does create three positions, one for a civil attorney within the District Attorney’s office, one officer at the Caldwell County Jail, and one clerk’s position.
The heads of those departments have discussed the need for the positions for quite some time, citing an increased workload in each of the three areas.
Still, given the state of the budget, Bonn suggested the positions be removed from the budget and reevaluated at a later time, when the economy was on more stable footing.
He was outvoted on the measure, and the budget and tax rate passed 3-1.
In other Court news, the County has continued discussions with the Caldwell County Fair Association, but has been unable to reach an agreement with the organization about the use of the Caldwell County Fairgrounds.
The Caldwell County Fairgrounds gave notice in February that they intended to renew the lease for the Caldwell County Fairgrounds and show barn for another 25 years, as spelled out in the lease originally signed in 1984. At that time, they also remitted payment of $25, the rent for the entire term of the lease.
Since that time, the Commissioners have expressed concern about the organization’s internal rules governing participation in the Caldwell County Junior Livestock Show and Sale. Because of the timing of the CCJLS and the Luling Livestock Show, many Luling students are unable to participate in the Caldwell County Show.
Although the lease was listed on the agenda for approval, the Court chose to table the motion pending further discussion with legal counsel.
Individuals close to the Caldwell County Fair Association have declined to speak on the record about the issue until a resolution has been reached with the Commissioners’ Court.
In brief news:
After rains doused Caldwell County last week, the Commissioners ratified a decision to lift the outdoor burning ban as of Sept. 11.
They discussed bids for aggregate, base, fuel and asphalt materials, as well as bids for two half-ton pickup trucks and three three-quarter-ton trucks.
They approved a resolution allowing the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office to apply for a grant to continue participation in the Chisholm Trail Special Crimes Unit.
They heard information about the upcoming constitutional amendment election, in which county election coordinator Mary Vicky Gonzales has requested to open only 17 polling locations.
They discussed abandoning a right of way off Seminole Trail in Lytton Springs to the Lytton Springs Cemetery Association.
The county paid bills in the amount of $150,203.93, which included 250.00 for indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.