Proposed county budget
County attorney-elect salary kept at current
despite Owen’s recommendation
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners amended the proposed fiscal year
(FY) 2009 budget, adding $25,000 to the county attorney’s salary line.
Outgoing County Attorney James Owen had submitted a salary of $35,000
during a recent budget workshop, as was his prerogative.
Commissioners opted to raise that up to the $60,000 range for County
Attorney-elect Clint Davis.
Owen maintained it was the same amount he always budgeted for his
position. As a lawyer maintaining a private practice, Owen is eligible
to earn only $100,000 from his public service.
The state legislature provides up to $62,000 per position as a
supplement to counties to increase salaries of judges and prosecutors to
a cap of $125,000, if they give up their private law practices while in
However, the law stipulates commissioners may not consider the state
supplement in setting salaries.
When Davis learned of Owen’s budget, he joined an Aug. 29 budget
workshop to oppose the move.
During the regular commissioners court meeting Tuesday, Precinct 2
Commissioner Wade McKinney argued that to deviate from the salary level
set in 2002 would be in violation of state statute.
Owen countered that commissioners were not obligated to change his
budget, though they may if they choose.
“I was just trying to save the taxpayers $25,000,” Owen said.
Commissioners split 3-2 on the vote to amend the proposed budget, with
Judge David Holstein and Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence opposed.
Lawrence said he’d like to see less disparity in pay raises across the
board to county employees.
A related budget amendment providing a cost-of-living increase also
narrowly passed, 3-2, with Lawrence and Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall
The actions were two of four amendments commissioners considered – three
passed, while one died without a motion.
Among them, county constables received a pay raise to sergeant level, a
move that was supposed to have taken place last year, McKinney pointed
out. “Due to the intricacies of the budget process, it got overlooked,”
The action resulted in a $20,521.71 increase to the budget
“I feel this is a fair raise,” Lawrence said. “But, I’d like to see an
equal raise to all county employees – that’s what bothers me.”
Holstein agreed, but responded, “Taxpayers are hurting same as everyone
else. We’re answerable to them.”
Hall added the “risk of the job is deserving of this pay raise.”
Again, both Lawrence and Holstein opposed the action.
Failing to muster a motion was an amendment to provide a cost-of-living
increase to the County Court at Law judge. That salary is presently at
its cap of $125,000.
Earlier in the meeting, the public was given time to comment on the
proposed FY 2009 budget. Two citizens noted that it was hard to comment
on something that wasn’t available to them until Tuesday morning.
The budget was to be posted on the Henderson County website soon after
being filed with the State Comptroller’s Office Sept. 1, but for an
unknown reason, the budget hadn’t been passed from the county judge’s
office to the IT department for scanning and posting to the county
Late Tuesday, the 117-page document was made available on the website
with the amendments added to it.
The soonest commissioners can adopt the 2009 budget is Tuesday, Sept.
16. After reviewing the budget on-line or getting a copy from the
auditor’s office, citizens with concerns may contact their precinct
commissioner before that date.
In other business, commissioners:
• tabled action on setting 2009 Sheriffs’ and Constables fees. The Local
Government Code gives the county until Oct. 1 to make any changes to the
present $75 fee, set six years ago.
• accepted a $1,000 bid on a lot in the Hidden Hills Harbor subdivision.
• took no action on a request from the Henderson County Fire Chiefs
Association to re-dig a trench for an upcoming “trench rescue” class.
• held a public hearing on a proposed tax rate of 47.6016 cents per $100
• authorized a change order that would give the county a credit of
$4,810 as part of the jail expansion project.
• denied a change order to install a new electrical panel to the
recently remodeled dispatch area of the new jail. Commissioners were not
happy with the plan, because it didn’t consider future needs beyond 100
• accepted two replats for properties in Pinnacle Club.
• paid bills totaling $398,255.20.
Mabank ISD opens Spirit Week
Monitor Staff Reports
MABANK–Monday opens a very exciting week for the Mabank Independent
School District and its surrounding communities.
The district’s eighth annual Spirit Week fund-raising event will begin
Monday, Sept. 8. Despite a struggling economy, campus administrators and
staff members are gearing up to make this another successful year for
MISD and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“This year’s Spirit Week came at us really quickly, but that hasn’t
stopped us from trying to make it a year to remember,” Spirit Week
Coordinator Tonya Chapman said. “The economy, the early date and the
lack of a competitor for our challenge presented some obstacles for us,
but we are ready. Based on what I hear from the different campuses, they
are out to beat the totals from last year.”
This week will be filled with a number of activities to help raise money
for Spirit Week. Each campus in the district will host its own
fund-raising activities, and a number of activities are planned for
district-wide and community participation.
“Part of the fun of Spirit Week is seeing the ideas that people come up
with to help our cause,” Chapman said. “I love when we come up with a
fund-raiser that we have never done before, and I get a huge kick out of
listening to people get excited about Spirit Week.”
Community-wide activities this year include the annual Spirit Rally, the
Spirit of Charity Golf Tournament, a Catch the Spirit Fun Run/Walk, and
a garage sale sponsored by the Central Elementary Staff and Parent
The Spirit Rally will be held from 6-8 p.m. Monday at the new high
Traditionally, the rally has been at the Andrew Gibbs rodeo arena, but
having the event at the high school offers a chance to showcase the
newest facility in the district and to attract guests from the traffic
coming into Mabank from the front of the high school.
“The city has always been so helpful with our Spirit Rally when the
event was hosted at the arena,” Chapman said. “Having the community
support our efforts is what has helped make this event such a huge
A number of family activities are scheduled for the rally including
games, food and performances.
“There are lots of games, activities and shows planned for children,”
Chapman said. “We also plan to have lots of food varieties, including
hamburgers, hot dogs, soups and snack foods.”
The third annual Spirit of Charity Golf Tournament also will be held
Monday at the Cedar Creek Country Club. For more information, contact
Cris Cary at Mabank High School, (903) 880-1600.
The Catch the Spirit Fun/Run walk will take place Thursday, Sept. 11.
Contact Melissa Sullivan at Lakeview Elementary, (903) 880-1360, for
From 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, the entire community is invited to Central
Elementary’s Staff and Parent Teacher Organization garage sale. Items
have already been donated and collected and will be on sale on the
school’s front lawn.
“A number of activities are planned throughout the district during the
entire week,” Chapman said. “We also encourage local businesses to get
involved. Last year, restaurants sponsored dinners and stores donated
funds as well.”
For more information about Spirit Week or for information about how
businesses can get involved, please contact Chapman at Mabank
Intermediate School, (903) 880-1640.
T u n n e l v i s i o n
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
A worker with Fort Worth-based J.L. Steel Reinforcing
LLC ties long strips of steel rebar to a spiral of steel
Thursday to create what will be the outer tube of a bridge
support column. More rebar and concrete will go into the
center of the column, once it's in place in the muddy bottom
of Cedar Creek Lake. Then, concrete and steel bridge
decking will go atop the columns as the new State Highway
198 Caney Creek bridge begins to take shape. Construction
is underway on the five-year project to replace the bridge
between Malakoff and Caney City.
Cities set tax rates
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–It’s budget time again, and with that comes setting
property tax rates for next year.
Of the eight lake area cities with an ad valorem tax, three have stayed
the same, four have decreased their rates and one has yet to set its
That said, property owners will likely see an increase in their tax
bill, due to rising property values.
Log Cabin proposes to decrease its tax rate to 52.04 cents per $100 of
property value, down from last year’s 60 cents.
At 52 cents, the city is likely to collect $624 more than the $146,314
it collected last year.
Both last year’s and this year’s rates are above the rollback rate of 49
cents. Total taxable valuation totals $24.4 million.
The city of Eustace proposes decreasing its tax rates by a penny.
Eustace’s rate is set at 32 cents, compared to 33 cents last year. The
city council expects to collect about $83,000 to meet the city’s 2009
Trinidad has set a tax rate of 48.29 cents. Although slightly lower than
last year’s rate of 49.95 cents, this year’s rate is set at the highest
it can be without opening the door to a rollback election.
The city of Kemp proposes a very slight decrease from last year’s rate
of 80.79 cents per $100 of property value to 80.52999 cents. The
rollback rate is set at 80.54 cents.
The average property owner will likely pay about $482 on an average
property valued at $61,754. Public hearings on this year’s tax rate are
set for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8 and Sept. 15.
Kemp recently restructured its long-term debt in preparation of setting
its tax rate for many years to come.
The city’s estimated tax levy will top $230,500.
The cities of Mabank, Enchanted Oaks and Malakoff held the line, keeping
the same rates as last year.
Mabank’s proposed rate is set at 43.78 cents per $100 of property value,
with 30 percent going to Interest and Sinking (debt service) and 70
percent to Maintenance and Operations, funding a budget totaling
Last year’s total taxable property value totaled $134,079,017. This
year, that value has increased to $153,509,407. Part of that increase in
values came from new construction.
Though Malakoff could have increased its rate a penny without triggering
a rollback election, it opted to generate more funding through a slight
increase in sales tax to fund a Crime Control and Prevention District
and an Economic Development Corporation.
Voters will get to decide that issue at the polls Nov. 4. The ballot
will propose spliting the half cent additional sales tax three-eighths
and one eighth, with the larger portion expecting to raise an additional
$80,000 for the Crime Prevention District, with approximately $27,000
going toward economic development.
Malakoff’s tax rate remains at 22.1069 cents per $100 of value, the same
rate established following January’s rollback election. This year’s
rollback rate is set at 23.7417 cents.
Enchanted Oaks is maintaining its tax rate of 22 cents per $100,
expecting a slight increase in budget funds through increased property
values in the small community.
Tool proposes a tax rate increase of 2 cents, from 40.24 last year to
42.24 cents this year, to raise $724,892 to operate the city in 2009.
The Tool City Council is set to vote on the tax rate during a meeting to
be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Oran White Civic Center, next
to the city hall.