County eyes tax hike, pay raises

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

With their heads still spinning over the 9.4 percent increase in appraised market values this year, the Caldwell County Commissioners continue to struggle with ever-growing budget needs.
During the Commissioners” Court regular session on Monday, County Judge H.T. Wright presented the county”s proposed budget for the comi

ng fiscal year. Although the budget leaves “no allowance for new or enhanced services,” it does include a 2 percent cost of living raise for most county employees. In addition, the new budget takes into account both the operations and debt service for the soon-to-be-constructed jail annex.
Wright and County Auditor Sonny Rougeou estimate that the budget can be funded with just over a one cent per $100 increase in county taxes.
“Everyone has needs, and we tried to address as many of those as we could,” Wright said. “I”m sorry that the county is poor and we just can”t afford everything we”d like to.”
In the coming weeks, the Commissioners will hold a series of public hearings regarding the budget and increased tax rates. The first of those will be held on Monday, Aug. 28 in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.
Copies of the proposed budget can be made available to the public by contacting the County Judge”s Office.
In other county business, the Commissioners approved an agreement with the City of Lockhart to hold a joint election on Nov. 7, 2006. The proposal, brought to the Court by Lockhart City Secretary Connie Ortiz, was spurred by the fact that the citizens of Lockhart petitioned to have special elections on two issues this year. However, because Nov. 7 is a general election date, Ortiz stated it would be more convenient and cost effective for the city and county to share the responsibility for the election.
“Because the county will be having an election at that same time, there is no way I can lease the electronic voting machines,” Ortiz said. “But the way the voting districts are drawn [within the city] we can add our two issues to your ballot and make it more convenient for the voters.”
Under the agreement, Ortiz will work with county election officials to make sure that ballots are drawn properly for voting districts inside and outside of the city limits.
The Uhland Volunteer Fire Department rescinded a request for additional county funding for the next two years.
The issue, which Commissioner Neto Madrigal brought to the Court last month, stemmed from financial difficulties within the department, which were compounded by an outstanding loan on a fire engine. However, according to Madrigal, the department sold the truck in question, and therefore no longer needs the additional funding.
In brief Court news:
The Commissioners approved a request from Cooper Communities changing the plan for the Turner Crest Ranch development from a 4,000 to a 5,000 dwelling development. The change will allow for additional multi-family units to be built within the development if the market demands them.
The County approved the tax sale of a mobile home in Mustang Ridge. The property was seized and auctioned for outstanding taxes.
Several departments, including EMS, Justice Precinct 3 and Justice Precinct 4 approached the Court with budget requests.
The county paid bills in the amount of $137,050.44, including $15,600 for indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.

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