Weatherford Democrat

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August 27, 2012

County budget boosts salaries, not taxes

PARKER COUNTY — Parker County commissioners approved a new, bigger budget for FY 2012-2013 Friday with no tax increase.

Voting in favor of the $37.8 million general fund budget — up from $35.7 million last year — were Judge Mark Riley and commissioners George Conley, Craig Peacock and Dusty Renfro. Commissioner John Roth was absent.

The court also approved a $10,7 million lateral road fund budget and a $6 million debt service fund.

A last-minute change was included in the motion to approve, authorizing that $3,000 be moved from a general fund source to the 415th district court to pay for a part-time bailiff for Judge Quisenberry.

The total tax rate for the budget is unchanged at 41 cents per $100 assessed valuation. For the general fund, the rate is 26.5 cents per $100 valuation, with 8.3 cents for the lateral road fund and 6.4 cents for debt service.

The county is projected to lose $118,937 in property tax revenue this year, but gain about $700,000 from sales taxes and $509,177 from fees related to the volume of business.

Another up side, auditor Mike Rhoten said, was that about $500,000 had been set aside for an anticipated increase in health insurance costs, which didn’t materialize.

Approximately $316,000 was put in reserves, he said.

Riley said the Public Employee Benefit Coop worked with the county to estimate the insurance costs early, expediting the budget process, which is finishing several weeks earlier than usual.

He said county employees — who have not had raises for the past five years — were the focus of this year’s budget.

“Everything’s been put toward employees, there is not stuff,” Riley said. “The software is down the road.”

In the new budget, about $900,000 has been dedicated to cost of living increases, Rhoten said.

Employees who have not been elected to their positions will receive a 3 percent increase. Sheriff’s department employees and the deputy constables will receive an additional 2 percent increase above that.

No new positions have been added. Commissioners approved another full-time clerk for Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Lynn Johnson’s office, but Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Suzie Merkley will give up a position in her office.

Rhoten said later that he has put about $200,000 from fees in a special justice technology fund — not part of the general fund — for the first payment on new judicial software, which the county expects to purchase in the near future.

“We’ll probably finance the software over the next few years,” he said.

An expenditure summary of the general fund shows the sheriff’s administration budget increasing by $956,925 — to $8.1 million — in part reflecting the salary and benefits increases.

The court system also shows sizable increases, with the 43rd district court’s budget rising $102,318 — with $65,000 for attorney fees, the 415th district court’s budget up by $123,125 — with $100,000 for attorney fees — and the county attorney’s budget rising by $108,297, with the biggest increase ­— $91,796 — in the salaries and wages line.

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