By Greg Peak
LIVINGSTON – Final tweaks were made to Polk County's proposed $30.1 million budget Tuesday before it was released for public review and hearings were scheduled to receive comments on the spending plan and the tax rate needed to support it.
Members of the Polk County Commissioners Court held a budget workshop at the end of their regular meeting to review changes made in recent days as more accurate information on expenses and income became available.
Under state law, commissioners were required to take a recorded vote on the proposed tax rate for the coming year, although final adoption of that rate will not occur until after two public hearings. The four commissioners and the county judge all voted for a proposed tax rate of $0.6461 per $100 in assessed tax value -- which is the same rate the county used to support the fiscal year 2017 budget.
However, because the rate is higher than the effective tax rate of $0.626602 per $100 in value, by law this constitutes a tax increase and public hearings must be held. The "effective" rate is essentially the amount the county would need to generate the same income as it did during the prior year.
The public hearings on the proposed tax rate will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22, and at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, in the commissioners courtroom on the third floor of the Polk County Courthouse in Livingston. A final public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12, also in the commissioners courtroom. Commissioners are then expected to adopt the budget, which will go into effect on Oct. 1.
A copy of the proposed budget is expected to be posted this week on the county's website at www.co.polk.tx.us .
Although not part of the official budget, commissioners reviewed and made changes to the capital expense requests made by the various departments. Normally, during the course of the year as major purchases are made for vehicles, computer equipment and other items, the amount is added to a continuing resolution and at the end of the year the court approves issuing seven-year tax notes to reimburse the general fund for those purchases.
County Judge Sydney Murphy said that during the coming year, they are anticipating some major purchases that would mean a higher than normal reimbursement. She noted County Clerk Schelana Hock has requested new voting equipment to replace the equipment purchased in 2006 for which parts and maintenance are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
Overall, a total of $1,270,338 in possible capital purchases were submitted by the various department heads for the coming year -- including about $600,000 for the new voting equipment.
Murphy indicated she was not comfortable with a figure that high and suggested it be cut back to about $1 million and the four commissioners agreed. After discussing it with the various department heads, the commissioners agreed to cut back on the number of vehicles it would purchase for the sheriff, maintenance and county agent departments.