Sep

21

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 21, 2016

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
KAUFMAN–The Kaufman County Commissioners adopted the 2017 fiscal year county budget, 3-2, Monday with commissioners Jimmy Vrzalik and Ken Schoen opposed. Precinct 1 Commissioner Vrzalik described the reset salaries, expenses and other allowances of all elected county and precinct offices as “vastly unfair. No way the citizens of Kaufman County should support this,” he said.
The general fund totals $39,317,896, that’s a little more than $2,000,000 more than last year, reflective of $600 pay raises to all elected officials, along with allowances for cell phone expenses, use of personal car for justices of the peace; and longevity pay, most less than $100. Three noted exceptions are County Judge of $2,457.12, and $1,736 for Precincts 3 and 4 Justices of the Peace.
With a 97 percent tax collection rate, the county estimates collecting $31,245,704. Additional revenues from fees, sales tax on mixed drinks sales, interest, and other revenues, such as a federal contract to house prisoners adds another $8.8M.
The commissioners adopted a tax rate of 58.87 cents per $100 of taxable property value, which is estimated to raise $4,530,386.44, an increase of 10.81 percent of which $1,136,938.41 comes from new property added to the tax roll this year. The tax rate reflects a 2.18 percent increase over last year’s rate. Within that rate structure the portion set aside for road and bridge funding increased from 8.67 cents per $100 to 9.20 cents.
The sole person addressing the commissioners during the last public hearing on the budget came from Precinct 3 Constable Keith Stephens, who opposed losing funding for a part-time position that would impact the office’s work load of serving 538 papers so far this year. Earlier, Stephens had resisted aiding the tax office in Terrell in making daily bank deposit runs on its behalf. Precincts 1 and 2 constables said they would do it, so commissioners split a $20,000 funding for the part-time position between the two willing constable offices to make the deposits in Precinct 3, Judge Wood explained to The Monitor.
In other business, commissioners:
• changed the personnel handbook regarding the rehire of former retired employees to stipulate a minimum of three calendar months since retiring before rehiring.
• reappointed Randy Richards as Kaufman County Fire Marshal
• approved the purchase of issued handguns at 50 percent fair market value to retiring officers Keith Ramsey and Tim Spillman for $218.33.
• adopted the County Clerk’s Records Archive Plan of charging a $10 fee until 2019 for the recording of documents.
• approved a memorandum of understanding with North Central Texas Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging, where the county contributes $13,000 and gets back $300,000 worth of services. “Seems a pretty good deal for the citizens of Kaufman County,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Ken Schoen said.

Sep

14

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 14, 2016

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners adopted a revised 2017 budget and tax rate Tuesday, after much discussion sparked by retiring Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence. Action in three motions, suggested the taxpayer would see a return through a lowered tax rate achieved by the elimination of a proposed staffing position in the Fire Marshal’s Office. However, when all was said and done, the tax rate remained the same and a needed posting was eliminated.
The court reasoned that it would be counter-productive to lower the tax rate only to have to raise it again next year or the year after should property values remain flat, development ceases and mineral values continue to dip.
Lawrence backed away from his position to see the tax rate lowered by perhaps as much as 2.5 cents by saying, “I don’t want to put this court into a situation that would tie its hands based on the lowered effective tax rate.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney pointed out that in 2011, when Texas was feeling the fallout from the 2008 national financial crisis and tax rates began to grow in surrounding counties, the court shaved a million dollars from the budget in order to maintain the same tax rate.
“That amount was equal to a bond payment,” he said. “Our objective has been to keep the tax rate flat without fluctuation in order to secure a predictable revenue stream.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin supports a lowered tax rate if it corresponds to increased property values. “A flat tax rate is the objective as long as property values aren’t going up. I use 2011 as a reference point. If it had not been for new construction, our tax base would have gone way down,” he said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas, who has also announced his retirement at the end of the year, stood by the fire marshal’s request for additional staffing. He opposed the removal of the amendment to the budget and voted against the adoption of the budget without the amendment. “I support the addition to the Fire Marshal’s Office. Its service has improved and I’ve seen it serve my precinct and our county well over the last four years. He’s (Fire Marshal Shane Renberg) asked for some help and I stand by giving that support in this budget.”
The three motions went as follows:
• To remove a proposed post to the Fire Marshal’s Office and return the allocated funds to the fund balance, 3-2;
• To adopt the revised budget, without the additional staffing;
• To approve the proposed tax rate of 47.79840 cents per $100 valuation, which has held steadily over the past five years.
After a brief public hearing, in which no one present had anything to say, Lawrence pointed out that he could not approve the budget the way it stood because he felt the taxpayer should realize the return of some of the 2.5 cents of the tax rate, since the bond it supported had been paid in full. To do so, he added he would not support the amendment to the budget which included an added position to the fire marshal’s office.
Lawrence won his argument, drawing support from Commissioners Geeslin and McKinney, who sided with Lawrence. Judge Richard Sanders and Thomas, opposed.
“In 2006, the voters “overwhelmingly supported us in the jail expansion and in the 2007-08 budget, we were able to restore one penny back as property values increased,” McKinney said. “Other entities have been raising their tax rates, it would be great to lower our tax rate.”
Geeslin agreed with the jail bond comments and pointed out that belt-tightening measures allowed the county to get by on the same tax rate, which continues to result in a 96 percent and 97 percent tax collection rate. Even with maintaining the same tax rate, it comes beneath the effective tax rate of 48.03730 cents per $100, commonly understood as the rate needed to raise the same amount of tax revenue it did the year before. “Commissioner Lawrence is correct, it would have been nice to return the bond portion of the tax rate to voters, but the reduction in mineral values replaces that (the bond). If we lowered taxes, long term it would have a negative effect,” he said.
Geeslin summarized the $25,561,825 budget as containing “a bit of a pay raise to keep up with the CPI (Consumer Price Index) and the healthcare insurance mandate.”
A copy of the 50-page document, whose numbers are based on 94 percent of the collectable tax levy, can be accessed on line through the county’s website, under the County Judge’s page or at www.henderson-county.com/departments/county-auditor/financial-transparency.
In other business, commissioners:
• renewed a service agreement with the Andrews Center for $27,500.
• entered into a road use agreement with HVAC Inc. at its 1010 W. Highway 31, Athens location.
• approved contracts for dental, vision and health insurance from Nov. 1-Oct. 31, 2017.
• resolved to oppose caps on property appraisals and revenue; unfunded mandates and in support of state funds for indigent criminal defense.
• ordered the designation of Clayton Homes Henderson County as a reinvestment zone, setting its boundaries.
• set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 26 on a request for a speed limit of 35 mph on a 4.5 mile stretch of CR 4400 in Precinct 4.
• paid bills totaling $665,615.81, capital murder trial costs of $35,655.12, and sales tax for August totaling $1,299.37 on taxable fees and services.

Sep

14

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 14, 2016

Eustace wide receiver Cole Yarbrough (3) carries the  ball for an 84-yard touchdown halfway through the final quarter. Teammates Cole Graham (45) and JJ Hughes(44) come along side to assist.

Eustace wide receiver Cole Yarbrough (3) carries the ball for an 84-yard touchdown halfway through the final quarter. Teammates Cole Graham (45) and JJ Hughes(44) come along side to assist.

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
EUSTACE–The home crowd had a rewarding Homecoming win against the Palmer Bulldogs 42-0, with some exciting long yard runs for touchdowns in both halves of the game Sept. 9.
Eustace scored its first running touchdown in the first six minutes of the first half and posted a final touchdown in the last six minutes of the game.
Quarterback Alejandro Sanchez ran for 68 yards to put the first points on the board, but the point after went wide of the uprights. On the next Eustace play, Cameron Rogers scored the second touchdown with a 67-yard run and the point after by Darren Marcus brought the score to 13-0, which held through the very last 38 seconds of the second quarter, when Eustace posted its next TD and PAT for a 21-point lead going into halftime.
The Palmer football team leaned heavily on making long passes and misses. At the beginning of the third quarter, Eustace corner back Cole Yarbrough made his second interception of the night and a 40-yard run brought the ball just inside the 10-yard line. A quarterback keeper scored the touchdown, with a good PAT for a score of 28-0, Eustace. Following another Palmer attempt to drive the ball toward the uprights, Yarbrough again interceped the ball and carried it for an 84-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion brought the score to 36-0.
On the next Palmer possession, quarterback Wesley Greenlee connected with receiver Gunnar Barnes at the 31-yard line. However, the Eustace defensive line was successful at pushing them back to the 50-yard line and holding them there. The closest the visitors got to the goal line all night was the 17-yard line.
The Bulldogs scored their final touchdown of the night in the fourth quarter with no extra points, for the 42-0 final.