Palo Pinto County commissioners

PALO PINTO — County commissioners in Palo Pinto are set to approve a $19.8 million spending plan on Monday for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The meeting is at 9 a.m. in the Commissioners Courtroom in the Palo Pinto Courthouse in Palo Pinto.

County Judge Shane Long’s proposed budget is partly fueled by a 39.2-cent property tax rate that’s projected to contribute $11.5 million to the county’s daily operations account.

The rate is lower than the 2020 tax rate of 42 cents, which also was the 2019 county tax rate. The proposed levy will bring in about $498,000 more than last year’s rate owing largely to $318,000 expected from new property on the tax roll.

The proposed rate would draw a $392 tax on a $100,000 home if no exemptions are claimed.

Long’s plan also is buoyed by a $10 million reserve expected in this year’s budget when it closes at the end of next month. The judge credited the four county commissioners for about $2.25 million of the reserve funds, enough to fund their roads crews three to four months if an unexpected emergency arises.

“They’ve done a good job of keeping that (reserve fund) in place,” Long said. “When this COVID stuff started, everybody was concerned about how this was going to work out.”

Elected officials and the county’s roughly 150 employees are slated in the proposal for five-percent raises, after wages were frozen this budget year out of COVID concerns.

Better-than-expected sales taxes collected during 2020, owing largely to Dallas/Fort Worth residents fleeing COVID to second homes at Possum Kingdom Reservoir, had reached $1.75 million by the end of July. That revenue totaled $1.5 million last year.

A link to the 67-page proposed budget is on the front page of the county’s website, www.co.palo-pinto.tx.us.

The judge anticipates pulling $3.17 million from the $10 million reserve, most of it to fund a remake of the old Bank of America in Mineral Wells plus renovations to the courthouse in Palo Pinto.

Long said the county traded it’s Poston’s Building in Mineral Wells for the bank, on U.S. Highway 180 about three blocks east of U.S. 281. He added about two-thirds of the county’s residents live in or near Mineral Wells.

The new facility will house the tax collector/assessor, the elections administrator, the Precinct 5 justice of the peace court, juvenile probation, emergency management, the county fire chief, public works, auxiliary county clerk and adult probation offices and some sheriff’s department offices.

The courthouse in Palo Pinto will then be renovated and mostly dedicated to courts, he said, adding the departmental musical chairs should be finished by “hopefully, the end of the year.”

Commissioners conducted a final workshop on the budget last Monday, during a regular session at which they also delayed action on raising sewer rates till after overdue bills are resolved. The court learned from staff that five bills are $500 overdue and another is $1,200 in arrears.

The last time sewer rates went up was in 2011, when they rose from $20 to $25.

“It hasn’t been raised in forever,” Long said.

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