Smith County passes budget for 2011

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Morgan Chesky - bio | email | Twitter
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It promises to save but not without coming with some serious costs. On their final day to decide on next year's budget Smith County commissioners made their final decision.

The 2011 budget features a leaner county work force and a tax hike for Smith County residents.

It was the $64,000,000 question that finally received an answer. With four in favor and one opposed Smith County commissioner's left their lines in the sand behind.

"It's not about compromising your principles," said Smith County Judge Joel Baker. "It's about moving forward for the benefit of the community and doing what you think is right."

and what others still think is wrong.

The $7,800,000 saved from last year's budget was welcomed. The cuts in benefits and elimination of 33 county jobs was not.

"I have never known a county worker to lean on his shovel," said Karen Wilkerson.

The courtroom crowds came for another reason. The 2.5 cent raise in property taxes.

"Why should I, the taxpayer, have to pay?" asked Smith County resident Barbara Nash.

Resident pleas did not fall on deaf ears. Commissioner Terry Phillips was the lone opposition.

"The easiest thing to do would be to vote for a tax increase," said Phillips. "That's the easiest thing to do."

Projections show the tax hike bringing nearly $41,000,000 to the cash starved county. It is a tax payer cost hitting business owner Chris Harry right "in the gut."

Harry says his home business is not out of tough times yet and each new tax means higher prices.

"We pass it on to the consumers," said Harry. "We don't have a choice. We have to increase costs all the way across the board."

But, county leaders say with an uncertain economy, better to face the problem now to avoid a more painful future.

"I think we'll be in good shape for next year," said Judge Baker. "Moving into the next year budget process we'll begin that budget process a whole lot earlier."

On an individual level, 2011 projections have Smith County tax payers paying around $35 a month in property taxes. That is based on the average home price of $135,000.

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