Smith County Tax Rate Holds

Smith County residents will not have to pay a higher tax rate for next year. After weeks of negotiations, the County Commissioners unanimously approved the 2003 budget Wednesday morning.

The good news for tax payers did come at a cost. Those costs will be shared by many different departments. Both District Attorney Jack Skeen and Sheriff J.B. Smith made voluntary cuts to help balance the county's budget.

The court does expect an increase in tax revenue next year due to higher property values. But the Juvenile Justice Services Budget was reduced by 150 thousand, and funding for the Outer Loop project was cut in half, to $225,000 for 2003.

County employees also sacrificed, as they were denied a 3 percent raise. Jeannette Clark works in the County Clerk's office. "I think it's really unfair. We're really working now for nothing. And, I really think that we all deserve one. Some people need to come and see what we're doing and maybe they will think that we did deserve the raise."

Judge Craig says this was the hardest budget he's worked on in his 16 years in office. It will also be his last. "We were not able to give the employees at least a cost of living raise. But, we had to make lot of consessions. The commissioners all worked together and made a lot of consessions. So, that was one thing that just didn't make it this year, and I feel real bad about that."

The County says it lost more than a half million dollars in revenues after 9-11 because interest rates dropped significantly over the last year.