Earthquakes, and their possible link to injection wells used for fracking waste, have been an issue for Parker County residents recently. Do you think the Texas Railroad Commission should increase the monitoring and reporting done on these wells?
The Texas Railroad Commission is in the process of hiring a seismologist to gather scientific data on the earthquake occurrence in Northern Parker County. SMU is also conducting a study. Everyone acknowledges a problem exists. It is important to gather scientific data to provide the best possible answer to the cause of the tremors. It is important the RRC keep the public updated on their process and push for a timely response with their conclusions.
Please comment on the $1.3 million road and bridge fund deficit brought to light in this year’s budget talks and the court’s decision to give up individual fund balances.
The question is misleading, in that the fund balance of all county funds is reported on regularly. The R&B fund balance is overseen by the commissioners. The difference in the precinct fund balance and the one for the general fund is simple.
The R&B fund balance is split into five accounts. Each commissioner had his own reserves (not allowed in the general fund) and the R&B reserve fund. Unlike the general fund departments, the precincts draw down on their own reserves and make allocations from the main reserve fund as well.
The commissioners have sole responsibility for their budgets. The commissioners have made the correct decision to eliminate individual precinct reserves and operate the same way as the general fund. There have been previous commissioners who have opposed that move. Fortunately the current court sees the value in changing the process.
Do you have any strategies to limit tax increases as the county grows? If so what are they?
We have already limited tax rate increases and continue with the same tax rate. Individual tax bills may or may not increase based on appraisal changes (which are not controlled by Commissioners Court). Tax bills may increase because of the tax rate of other entities.
The general fund operating tax rate for the county is about 12 percent of the average tax rate for all taxing entities. Statewide, 82 percent of the 254 counties have a higher operating tax rate than Parker County.
Through sound business practices and a proven conservative approach to budgeting, we limit the tax while maintaining the expected level of service. Every budget has been scrubbed for unnecessary operating expenses. We cannot control unfunded mandates from the state which account for a large portion of our budget.
One of the biggest cost savings I was able to get approved was a change in our employee health insurance plan. We bought health insurance through an agency that cost us about $250,000 in commissions and administration fees.
Over the vehement objections of a former commissioner, I convinced the court to join a group with regional entities. Now, we pay no commissions and spend about $50,000 in administration fees. All monies paid by the county and employees now go directly to providing the benefits.
The transportation projects are one of the biggest economic engines we could have and with the positive growth we will continue to experience, we will have appropriate funds available to provide the expected services. If there is an economic downturn, we will do as we did several years ago. Cut expenses.