Palo Pinto County commissioners

PALO PINTO — The fiscal outlook was sunny on Monday as Palo Pinto County commissioners approved the audit report for last year’s books and learned sales tax receipts are up.

Long-term assets held by the county stood at nearly $31.8 million as the county closed out fiscal 2022 last Oct.1, outside auditor Mike Edgin told the court.

That was a $4.5 million improvement over the previous year, Edgin said.

The county’s unassigned general balance, representing tax monies not committed for daily operations, sat at nearly $15 million.

Government accounting principals recommend schools, cities and counties reserve enough of that unassigned account to handle three months of daily operations in an emergency.

The $15 million would fund Palo Pinto County for a little more than 11 months, Edgin said.

“So, you’re well beyond that,” he said. “You’re very healthy.”

Other funds covered in the audit included the county’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The $5.7 million in that account, which commissioners are guarding until they learn the cost of expanding the county’s water treatment plant east of Palo Pinto, drew $48,000 in interest during the last fiscal year.

Edgin also reported the county’s obligation under its state-affiliated pension plan was $3.8 million on Dec. 31 2022. That’s up from $2.4 million a year ago.

County Auditor Phyllis Banks earlier reported sales tax receipts for December had been close to $224,000.

That represented a 12.48 percent rise over the previous year.

“Sales tax keeps going through the roof,” Banks said.

Also Monday, commissioners declined to reimpose the county’s fire ban.

That cleared the way for fireworks sales on Thursday, which was Texas Independence Day.

Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Hunter told commissioners the Keetch-Byram Drought Index had improved with recent rainfall and more expected during the week.

He said later that rains were expected Wednesday night followed by 25mph winds on Thursday. That, combined with low humidity expected, will dry out plants and cause high fire hazard.

“The main thing is, even though the burn ban is not on and we have received some significant rainfall, the potential for significant fire hazard is still there,” Hunter said.

Commissioners on Monday also approved contracts between the county elections office and four entities participating in the May 6 vote.

Actions included approval of early and election day voting sites recommended by Elections Administrator Laura Watkins.

Early voting begins April 24 in the Palo Pinto Courthouse and the Courthouse Annex in Mineral Wells.

All voters in Palo Pinto County have a chance to cast a ballot this spring. That’s because Emergency Services District No. 1, which is countywide, is asking to enact a property tax cap of 8 cents per $100 property value.

The district, which provides fire and ambulance services throughout the county except within Mineral Wells, now has a property tax of slightly more than 2.6 cents.

Elections also are happening for the mayor’s position in Mingus, one position on the Mineral Wells City Council and on the Millsap ISD board where seven candidates are running for three slots.

Also Monday, Public Works Director David McDonald reported 15 building permits sold during January, all but one of them for new construction.

McDonald added that permits so far in February were moving at a faster pace than in that month last year.

Finally, Sheriff Brett McGuire asked the court to alter a security guard position at the Courthouse annex from full time to part time.

Commissioners previously had OK’d the position as full time, but McGuire said it had proven difficult to fill. He said he’d found someone to work security part time.

“It’ll save a little money,” the sheriff said. “We’ll see how it works, and we’ll go from there.”

McGuire also is authorized for two full-time security deputies at the annex.

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