Sunday, September 7, 2008

     

 

 

 

Proposed county budget amended
County attorney-elect salary kept at current levels,
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 public service.
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 opposed.
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,” he said.
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 website.
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 property valuation.
• 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 amps.
• 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 Teacher Organization.
The Spirit Rally will be held from 6-8 p.m. Monday at the new high school.
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 success.”
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 more information.
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 rate.
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 expenses.
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 $672,064.
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.


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