Grayson County welcomed some new voting equipment in 2019 and added to the cameras at the Grayson County Jail. In addition, county commissioners cut the tax rate again.
Grayson County commissioners approved the purchase of the new equipment in April Elections Administrator Deana Patterson unveiled the county’s new voting equipment in April and began training on it in August.
The county spent $1,287,234 for 250 ballot card markers and 40 scanners. That price tag did not include $209,490 for maintenance, $120,390 for hardware maintenance, $26,025 for the software license maintenance and support, or $63,075 for the firmware license and maintenance.
Still, Patterson said, the price was a good one when one considers the equipment could last 15 years or more. The machines that the county just trade in, she said, had a good shelf life for the county who received $147,100 in trade for its old IVotronic machines.
The new machines passed their first test when they were used in the November 2019 election and Patterson said everything worked just fine. The next big test will be the March primaries in 2020.
With elections squared away, county leaders turned to taxes in October and decided to once again lower the county’s tax rate. They approved a tax rate of .416429 per $100 valuation which continued the recent trend of lowering the tax rate each year. Commissioners said the rate will save homeowners about $23 on a $100,000 home. County commissioners said there isn’t a lot they can do about the appraisal creep that causes most folks to continue to pay more in taxes, but holding the line on the tax rate is something that is within their power.
While they held the line on taxes, county leaders didn’t forbid all new spending. In 2018, they approved $300,000 for the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office to spend on new cameras at the jail. The SO added another $200,000 to finish the job which they unveiled in February. The changes increased the number of cameras from 1265 to 167 and brought all of the cameras into the digital age. The upgrade also added more storage space for images. The old system had 37 days worth of storage and the new one has 90 days worth.
County officials said goodbye in 2019 to one of their own who had served the county for more than 25 years. Purchasing Agent Jeff Schneider was only one of a number of long-term employees who retired in 2019, but he had the most high profile position of those who left the county’s staff this year. Schneider started to work for the county in December of 1990 and he had 28 and a half years in when he retired in June.
“It’s been a great 28-and-a-half-year career,” Schneider said in a written statement. “I’ve worked with many great people over the years and I will remember my time here with great fondness.”
The most interesting project, he recalled, was the rural mapping and addressing. He said getting the GPS coordinates for all the roads and houses throughout the county had a lot of complications. He said the county’s Holiday Lights project, for which was he was person charged with purchasing displays, replacement lights and all of the other items needed to keep the project going for nearly 20 years, was a highlight of his career.
Jerrie Whiteley is the Criminal Justice Editor for the Herald Democrat. Contact her at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com or on Twitter @JLWhiteley.