Smith County adopts 2010 budget

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

Released by Adrienne Graham with the Smith County Commissioner's Court:

Following a public hearing Monday, the Smith County Commissioners Court adopted the proposed 2010 budget for the County in a 4-1 vote.

Under this budget, there will be no tax rate increase. The current tax rate, 28.894 cents per $100 valuation, will remain. The rate is lower than the effective tax rate - the rate needed to bring in the same amount last year - of 29.435 cents per $100 because tax values are down.

"This year's effective tax rate called for a tax increase, but we were able to take a scalpel to each department's budget and figure out a way to provide the same quality of service, without raising taxes," County Judge Joel Baker said.

The County estimates revenues of $69 million and has proposed $77.6 million in expenditures, according to the proposed budget.

"We made compromises and overall we have done a good job of producing a conservative budget," Commissioner JoAnn Hampton said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Warr, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bill McGinnis, Precinct 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton and County Judge Joel Baker voted to adopt the budget after Commissioner McGinnis made a last minute motion to cut a proposed full-time position for the Precinct 3 Constable's office.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Terry Phillips voted against the budget, citing the difference in expenditures and revenue.

"I would not budget this way at home, so I cannot support this budget for the County," Precinct 3 Commissioner Terry Phillips said.

Smith County Auditor Ann Wilson said the County historically appropriates more than they spend which is why the fund balance has grown and is capable of "giving back" during a leaner year if need be.

The Court set the goal of operating through 2010 without a tax increase during budget workshops that began in June.

"We have asked a lot, if not all of our departments to tighten their belts and go without the upgrades or additional help they have asked for. Like in the private sector, prudence and careful business planning are crucial if we are going to come out on top of this economically uncertain environment," Commissioner Warr said.

"I feel we adopted a budget that is solid and lean, that at the same time addresses the concerns we received from Smith County citizens," Precinct 2 Commissioner Bill McGinnis added.

Judge Baker said the County is setting an example in several ways in a hard budget year.

"Salary increases that were called for in the previously adopted plan have been essentially cut in half. We are also slowing down projects, and paying for them in cash as we go. And finally, we are investing in our County facilities, a decision that will save the County money in the long run. We are doing our very best to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars during these lean times," Judge Baker said.