The county may keep the same tax rate — $0.515 per $100 of valuation — that it had last year.
County commissioners voted for the rate on Wednesday, but it still has to go through two public hearings — one on Aug. 26 and the other on Sept. 9.
Members of the commissioners court said they were worried about what lowering the rate could do to budget.
“I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning, worrying, praying, trying to figure out how we’re going to meet this obligation,” said County Judge Rob Kelly.
The proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 is a deficit budget, meaning the county has planned more spending than it will receive in revenue.
The total expected amount of revenue is $34,329,386, while the total amount of requested expenditures is $36,588,657. That’s a shortfall of about $2.8 million.
The commissioners also approved filing the proposed budget, but it was not unanimous; Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz was absent and Kelly abstained.
“I’m not going to vote against this budget, (but) nor am I going to vote for it, because in my heart, I don’t think it’s right,” Kelly said. “I want to do the best we can to at least start moving forward with more of a balanced budget.”
While the other commissioners said they agreed with him that a deficit budget is not the best and the county should find a way in the future to have a more balanced budget, abstaining is not the answer.
“I’m going to vote, because I’m a participant,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley Belew. “(Kelly) had as much participation as anyone.”
Sheriff W.R. “Rusty” Hierholzer said that the only way he sees fixing any future county budget is through either a cut in staffing or through raising taxes.
“I don’t look at it as a deficit budget as long as every one of us are working as a team as we have for years,” Hierholzer said.
He said in another meeting that many of the department heads return funds at the end of the year if there’s anything leftover.
“If it came down to a crunch — I’ve been there many times — ‘We’re short $100 million (hypothetically), what are we going to do?’” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Moser. “Well, you’re going to get smart and figure out how to cut expenditures. That can be done also.”
There also will be a public hearing at 10 a.m. Sept. 9 to discuss a 2 percent raise in elected officials’ salaries.