The 2020 county tax rate may continue may continue its downward decline next year.
Grayson County Commissioners started budget sessions this week and the proposed tax rate of .416429 per $100 valuation could save a county tax payer with a $100,000 home about $23.94 cents in county taxes, if approved.
“This is a very, very, very conservative budget,” GC Judge Bill Magers explained the numbers commissioners have tentatively agreed upon. Though Magers said the process is well on its way this year, the budget will not be final until sometime late September or early October.
He also said that there has been a lot of talk this year about holding the line on taxes and on appraisal creep. This budget, he said, shows that they have lowered the tax rate by 16 percent over the past four years.
“We are actually lowering the rate faster than its creeping,” he said.
This marks several years in a row that the county has actually cut the tax rate including in 2019, and 2018, most recently.
The tax rate will support a budget that includes giving county employees a 3.5 percent pay increase and some big ticket items that could need funding in the upcoming fiscal year. The county has set aside $400,000 for improvements at the Loy Lake spillway though there is hope that such improvements won’t be that expensive. The budget also includes $400,000 to connect North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field to radar services.
The budget includes one new part-time employee for County Commissioner Precinct 4 and the upgrading of one part-time employee to full-time for the County Extension Office.
Magers said as the county continues to grow, local school districts do as well. That means the County Extension Office is working with more and more students.
The county has also set aside $40,000 for the census and will partner with the city of Sherman which has promised $25,000 and the city of Denison which has promised $15,000 for work toward getting all of Grayson County counted. Spending money on the census makes sense, Magers said, because there are millions of transportation dollars tied to those numbers.
Magers said there were some additional increases in the budget that were relatively minor. For instance, he said, Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt wanted to increase the number of hours worked for his nine investigators and two sergeants from 80 hours to 84 hours. Watt said that they are already working that many hours but right now and the SO is paying them in comp time. He has the money in his budget, but he is just looking to make the change official.
Also in the budget, is $50,000 to look at possible expansion for the Grayson County Jail. He said the jail isn’t at the point that it needs such expansion at this time, but it is best to stay ahead of the trend.
The budget, Magers said, also includes $25,000 for extra indigent defense costs for some upcoming murder trials and $4,000 in elections for the 20/20 election.
Though the county has, most recently, tied the amount of increase given to fire departments and ambulance services that provide care for people in the unincorporated areas of the county, to the amount of increase given to county employees, Magers said. But that is not the case this year.
“We spent a million plus on radar this year so that’s our contribution to the ambulance and fire,” he said.
Magers said the $1,502,790 in major requests and projects for the year will be cut significantly if the county doesn’t have to do the Spillway project or if the county pays for the radar project out of right of way funds. He said the county will eventually be reimbursed for the radar.
He said the county is also continuing to draw down its fund balance. They would need about $10 million for 90 days worth of fund balance. They have just over $17 million in fund balance right now.
Magers said the county could cut taxes even deeper, but they want to take a slower pace at doing that because no one wants to lower it just to have increase it a few years down the road.
“We feel like there are some capital expenses that may come down the pike at some point down the road that we can’t see from here,” he said noting that they want to make sure those items can be handled without the county needing to take on more debt.
What do you think about the recent county tax rate trend? Let Editor Jerrie Whiteley know at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com.