Grayson County Commissioners spent part of the past week ironing out details on the county’s upcoming budget. Among the items proposed by Grayson County Judge Bill Magers were another dip in the county tax rate, additional officers for the county jail and a 2 percent raise for county employees.
Magers said the budget is based on the effective tax rate, which is the tax rate required to bring in the same amount of money that the county brought in last year.
“It means that the new growth is funding our operations,” he said.
Though commissioners replied to the proposals with head nods, they have not officially approved the tax rate or the budget. Grayson County Auditor Richey Rivers said there are several steps that they must go through before they can officially vote on the budget.
Magers suggested that the county take its tax rate from 47 cents per $100 valuation of taxable property to 45 cents per $100 valuation of taxable property. He said that the new property in the county will bring in an additional $922,418 over last year. Magers said the budget proposed would leave the county facing a $1.5 million deficit, however he proposed that the county draw that money out of its existing fund balance.
That would take the county’s fund balance down from 20 week to 18 weeks. In the past, commissioners have determined that the county’s fund balance must not go below 11 weeks of reserve operating expenses.
Commissioners also listened as Magers explained that the county’s insurance will not increase, however their deductibles will. He said by increasing the $500 deductible to $1,000, the county would not have to increase what it costs most employees to be on the plan. However, he did say that the employees will pay slightly more to access that coverage. For instance, it will cost employees an additional $10 to go for an office visit with their primary provider and an additional $5 to see a specialist. And an emergency room visit will go up by about $150. Magers said the county has 906 people on its insurance plan and only 210 of them met their $500 deductible last year. He said one of the major goals of the plan is to keep employees out of the emergency room.
Magers said even with the changes, the county still offers its employees a great medical plan at a great price.
Commissioner Bart Lawrence asked whether the proposed budget included a 2 percent increase in the amount the county pays to local fire department and ambulance providers and Magers said it did.
For a number of years, the county and those providers negotiated those rates based on the number of runs made by each group. Last year, however, Lawrence proposed that the increase for those services be tied to the amount of increase set aside for county employees.
Additionally, the budget provides for six new employees at the county jail. The budget also includes a provision to stop paying jail employees in compensatory time. And the county will provide a lump sum buyback of that amassed personal leave time. The goal there, Magers said, is to make it easier on the staff to schedule people.
Among the next steps to be completed before the county can vote on budget are its publication and public hearings. The proposed budget is expected to be on the court’s agenda for next Tuesday.