County tax rate cuts expected for FY 2021

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
Grayson County Auditor Suzzett Smith, seated in mask, sits at the table with Grayson County Judge Bill Magers to her right and Commissioner Jeff Whitmire to her left at the Grayson County Courthouse Wednesday as commissioners discussed the 2021 budget. Commissioners David Whitlock, Bart Lawrence and Phyllis James sit across the table from Smith and Magers.

Grayson County gave tentative approval to a $40 million budget for 2021 that cuts taxes and spending by $1 million. The budget also promises a modest pay increase for county employees.

The proposed budget cuts taxes from .4164 per $100 valuation in 2020 to.3767 in 2021. That brings the county's tax rate cuts over the last five years to 23 percent.

The proposed budget eliminates 14 full-time positions and seven part-time ones.

Grayson County Judge Bill Magers stressed that those cuts were made without anyone being laid off, fired, or furloughed. They were simply unfilled positions that were cut from the budget.

The budget will still allow commissioners to give county elected officials and department heads about a 1.5 percent increase to pass on to their employees as pay raises.

Magers stressed that the proposed budget is conservative when it comes to income and spending and it based on the fact that that county leaders are concerned about the next year's tax payments not being what they have been in the past.

He explained that when COVID-19 hit, the county has just finished collecting the majority of its taxes for the 2020 tax year. The county generally builds is budget on a collection rate of around 97 percent but then the county generally collects about 99 percent of the taxes. He said he is concerned that the county might not reach that 99 percent collection rate in 2021 so they wanted to make sure to make the budget as tight as possible while still providing for employees while continuing to offers critical services to county residents.

While the commissioners gave the proposed budget their OK Wednesday, the budget process is still far from over. The county must post the budget proposal at a number of public meetings before the commissioners can take a final vote on it. That vote generally comes sometime at the end of September. The county's new budget year begins on Oct. 1.

Magers said he might be the one charged with producing the county's budget, but all of the county's elected officials and department heads worked to reach the best budget possible during uncertain times. Revenue is still down as many fines and fees have dropped off during the COVID-19 pandemic.