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Court approves $0.474 tax rate

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Houston County Seal 1280x640By Jan White
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CROCKETT – The Houston County Commissioners covered a lot of territory during their September 13 meeting. On the table for approval were contracts, funds, the county budget, the 2023 Fiscal Year tax rate and Houston County officer and employee salaries.

After a Public Hearing in which no participants spoke, the court voted to adopt the voter-approval Tax Rate of $0.474. While the rate is a decrease from last year’s tax rate of $0.53, tax revenue will increase 5.63% because property tax valuations have risen. The “Maintenance and Operations” portion of the tax allocation is $0.474 of the tax rate, and the “Interest in Sinking” portion is $0.054 of the rate.

The commissioners also voted to approve the Houston County Budget for the Fiscal Year 2023. The budget was based on projections that took into account the proposed revenue increase. Of the increase, $91,127 will be from the new property added to this year’s tax roll. After the budget discussion and approval, the Commissioners took a moment to praise Houston County Auditor Melissa Jeter for her hard work. 

Among the contract approvals were Pritchard & Abbott, Inc. for tax collection software, the contract with Lexis Nexis for legal research for the County and District Attorney offices, and the agreement with Rene Baters Auctioneers, Inc. to conduct online auctions for used equipment and surplus supplies.

Although the court has already reached the budget cap for the Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund for the current fiscal year, County Auditor Melissa Jeter told the court that they had enough money in the budget to approve the requests. Jeter also reminded the court that the funds were for the fiscal, not the calendar year, so they will renew on Oct. 1.

 The court then approved the request for the Fiddlers Festival on Sept. 23-24 at Porth Ag Arena, and the Pineywoods Fine Arts concert with Cory Morrow on Nov. 18 at the Crockett Civic Center, and The Loft for Ariel Hutchins and Band concert on Nov. 19. 

The commissioners went on to receive a donation on behalf of the Senior Citizens Center for $821 from Stesti Beer Garden, reappoint Dr. Chris Haeckler as County Health Authority, refinance a lease/purchase of $122k for a 2022 Mack Truck with a dump bed for Precinct 2 for thirteen months, and voted to advertise a bid for purchase and hauling of 2k tons of State road base.

A “Premises Use” policy was given to St. Francis of the Tejas for the Life Chain event on Oct. 2.

The court also approved payment to Pennington Water Supply for $16,329 for moving a water line due to the TxDOT bridge replacement project on CR 4555 in Precinct 4 and made the necessary budget amendments. It was reported that the work had already been completed, which was mostly a formality.

Approval was also given to move funds from the Title III Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act grant to Title I. for the fiscal year 2023 timber revenues, authorize the Houston County Sheriff’s Department to use Title III funding up to $74,336 for the previously authorized pickup trucks and approve modified service rates for inmate Lab Services for an increase of 6% provided by Quest Diagnostics, and transfer funds from the General Fund to Precinct 2 in the amount of 50k for DR 4223 receivable.

Because the November election includes widespread candidate races such as the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Gubernatorial races, Houston County Election Administrator Cynthia Lum requested a change in the Early Voting hours and locations. For voters to be able to vote before work, Ms. Lum asked that the hours of operation be changed. Currently, the polls open at 9 a.m. Lum’s request was to change the open time to 8 a.m. 

Lum also requested that additional voting locations be available for Early Voting. Her recommendations are: for Lovelady -the Lovelady Community Center – Building 2, located at 122 E. Cox Street; for Grapeland, the First United Methodist Church, located at 715 US Hwy. 287 N., and for Kennard, the First Baptist Church, located at 300 Carson Street. The Court approved both of Lum’s requests.

The commissioners approved accepting grants from the District Attorney’s office for the Victim Coordinator and Liaison, the Routine Airport Maintenance Program from TxDOT, and the Statewide Automated Victim Notification Service, also from the District Attorney’s office. Approval was also given for the “Hazard Mitigation Plan” and the acceptance of an Emergency Notification System agreement with DETCOG to participate in their public mass notification system. 

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