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By Alton Porter
CROCKETT – Houston County’s commissioners have adopted the county’s tax year 2021 property tax rate and its budget for the coming fiscal year.
The members of the county’s commissioners court took the actions after offering to conduct a public hearing on the proposed ad valorem tax rate at a meeting Tuesday morning.
The adopted tax rate is 53 cents per $100 of appraised property value. The commissioners had voted to pass a motion, proposing that the rate be set at that amount at a meeting held on Aug. 24. A public hearing on the rate and the budget was held at a Sept. 7 meeting.
The maintenance and operations (M&O) rate, also known as the General Fund rate, which is the largest part of the overall property tax rate is 45.991 cents per 100 of property valuation. The interest and sinking (I&S), or Debt Service Fund rate, the other part of the total property rate, is 7.009 cents for each $100 of property value.
“Our tax rate is going down from 53.2,” said County Judge Jim Lovell. “So, we were able to lower out tax rate.”
The county’s 2020 adopted tax was 53.2 cents per $100 of appraised property value, with a M&O rate of 45.734 cents for each $100 of property value and an I&S rate of 7.466 cents per $100 of property value.
The county’s 2021 total adjusted tax property valuation is $1.624 billion, with certified values totaling $1.618 billion and the rolling stock value totaling $5.824 million.
Based on the calculation of the total adjusted value with the adopted tax rate, if 100% of property taxes are collected this year, the county’s total tax revenue would amount to $8.608 million.
However, $8.436 million (or 98%) of total amount is expected to be collected. A breakdown of that total indicates $6.027 million (or 71.4%) will be from the General Fund part of the tax rate, $1.293 million (or 15.3%) from collections by the road and bridge funds part of the rate and $1.115 million (or 13.2%) from the Debt Service Fund part.
Distribution of the projected tax revenue will include $7.320 million (or 86.7%) to M&O (or General Fund and road & bridge) and $1.115 (or 13.2%) to I&S (or debt service).
Projected income and anticipated expenses in the county’s adopted balanced budget both total $18,552 million.
As noted, “(t)he total amount of taxes levied for this budget, based on the above assessed valuation, is $8.608 million,” the Order Adopting the Budget for Fiscal Year 2022” states. “If this amount, it is estimated that 98%, or $8.436 million of the above tax will be collected within the current year.”
The budget of estimated revenues and expenditures, prepared by Judge Lovell, who was assisted by County Auditor Melissa Jeter, is for the period beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2022, the order states.
“This budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by $264,906 or 3.74%, and of that amount $90,756.27 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year,” according to a statement on the front cover of the adopted budget document.
The commissioners passed a motion ratifying the 3.74% increase in property tax revenue.
In other business, the commissioners approved the setting of salaries and wages for all county officers and employees for fiscal year 2022. “This includes the four percent raise and also includes the 27 pay period,” Jeter said. “So, this is going to go down next year, so don’t panic. Don’t look at it too much. It’s just the way it has to be presented.”
During a public hearing, a proposed FY 2021-2022 archival plan for the county clerk’s office for records management, preservation and restoration of the clerk’s records archives was discussed.
After County Clerk Terri Meadows’s presentation during the time set aside for the hearing, the commissioners voted to adopt the archival plan. According to a document laying out the plan, “Many of the documents identified are in danger of being lost or illegible if … preservation techniques are not completed.” The types of records drawing the greatest concern are county pre-1999 birth, death and marriage records, and deed of trust books.
The commissioners voted to approve a rental and use agreement with Crockett Civic Center representatives so that the county’s district court could conduct a jury selection session in the center earlier this week and so that such sessions may be held for the county court-at-law Oct. 12-14, Nov. 8-12 and Dec. 13-16.
A motion to receive as information an order setting the annual salary for the county court-at-law court reporter, carried on a vote taken by the commissioners.
The commissioners approved acceptance of a desk donated by Bob Reeves to be used by courthouse bailiffs and $1,000 donated by Gary Johnson to be used for improvements to County Road 4025 in Precinct 3.
A motion, approving Bare Metal Standard Service Vehicle cleaning service for Vent Hood at the county’s Senior Center for a one-time fee of $650 and inspection and cleaning semi-annually, was passed by the commissioners.
Another motion to reimburse Precinct 1 Constable Morris Luker for $354 he paid for fuel when using his personal vehicle to perform his job duties when his county assigned truck was inoperable carried on a vote taken by the commissioners.
The commissioners approved the issuance of a county event permit, requested by Pastor Joby C. Thomas, of St. Francis of the Tejas Catholic Church, asking that the church’s members and guests be allowed to peacefully assemble for an event and march around the county courthouse on Crockett’s downtown square on Sunday, Oct. 3, from 2-3:30 p.m. in observance of Respect Life month.
And the commissioners approved an agreement for the acceptance of a grant by the county from the Texas Department of Transportation Routine Airport Maintenance Program (RAMP) for routine maintenance at the county airport during FY 2022.
The state’s financial assistance granted to the county is to be used solely and exclusively for airport maintenance and other incident items as approved by the state, according to a document that explains the grant and project.
The estimated project cost for general maintenance during the fiscal year is $10,000. The state is to cover 50% of the cost and the county is responsible for the other half.