Weatherford Democrat

August 20, 2013

No call for county tax hike as budget talks begin


Weatherford Democrat

— By JUDY SHERIDAN



Parker County commissioners begin discussions on the county’s $56.4 million FY 2013-14 budget Monday.

The proposed tax rate of 41 cents per $100 assessed valuation is the same as last year’s.

The $39 million General Fund budget, proposed by Judge Mark Riley, is balanced and up about 3 percent overall from last year’s.

The revenue expected from property taxes is virtually unchanged, but other significant revenue increases are projected, with $495,000 to come from housing more federal inmates in the Parker County Jail and $580,000 from increases in auto registration, according to Riley. The budget also forecasts a $268,000 increase in sales taxes.

The proposed budget does not assign the $1.3 million in additional funds to specific expenditures, lumping them into a contingencies category until future court discussion.

Riley said the court will use the undesignated funds to pay for increases in employee health insurance, yet unknown, new software for the sheriff’s office and a portion of state-mandated salary increases for district and county court-at-law judges.

“It will be moved over and designated when we adopt the budget,” Riley said. “Some of this stuff I didn’t have exact numbers on when I filed my budget, so I said we’ll just put the money right there — everybody knows where it is — that’s what we’re going to draw from as we make those adjustments...”

The proposed budget for the county’s Road and Bridge Fund, also balanced, is about $10.8 million, with little change from last year.

The Debt Service fund rises from about $6 million to about $6.6 million, with expenditures reflecting the lease-purchase of the county’s updated judicial software. It is also a balanced budget.

In addition to the General Fund, Road and Bridge Fund and Debt Service Fund — supported by taxes — the county maintains many other funds, most associated with fees, according to County Auditor Mike Rhoten,

When those funds are combined with the major funds, he said, the county’s total proposed budget for FY 2013-14 is approximately $76.9 million.

That total does not include the money set aside for transportation bond projects, which is shown as $22.3 million in the proposed budget, but described by Rhoten as closer to $24 million. 

The funds will wrap up the remaining bond projects, Riley said, the Western Loop and interchange, the Aledo Trail one-way couplet and a drainage study the court authorized in Springtown. Some of the monies will go toward a continuing alignment study that is expected to map an eastern loop around Weatherford.

Riley described the proposed budget as a good one, considering the recovering local economy.

“Our growth is steady, not phenomenal.” he said. “Everybody is doing over and above sometimes, working hard to make it work and not come back and ask for a lot of money.”

Elected officials will not get a raise, the judge said, but a pay increase for rank-and-file employees — within the available funds — will be a priority for court discussion.

“There’s not going be a tax rate increase; it’s not necessary,” he said.