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Smith County’s proposed budget calls for law enforcement pay increases, fleet upgrades, more

County judge says goals will be achieved without raising tax rate
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 7:10 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget calls for law enforcement salary increases, along with a focus on support services staffing and funding for roads and bridges, and the county judge says they plan on doing all of this without raising taxes.

“The tax rate that we’re looking for going forward in this next year, 33.5, is the same as this past year,” Moran said.

Moran called this a “catch-up year” when it comes to the county’s budget.

“Because we knew and we said openly last year as we reduced that tax rate from 34.5 cents to 33.5 cents last year, hey, we know we’re taking a big reduction in the tax rate. We’re doing that to help individual property owners out there, but we knew that we were delaying capital expenditures in particular. We’re going to have to catch up on that this year and that’s what we’re doing,” Moran said.

Catching up on things like roads and bridges, something Judge Moran committed to when he first came into office, and the proposed budget is approved, those roads could be seeing travels from close to 40 new county vehicles.

“Normally over the past 10 years, the county has spent about a half million dollars on fleet replacement,” Moran said. “This year we’re planning on spending about $1.75 million.”

Most of that money will be spent on law enforcement vehicles, according to Moran. He said the county’s size means lots of mileage paired with the usual wear and tear that comes with a vehicle used by law enforcement.

“We need to replace those to make sure that our law enforcement officers are safe, and that they can respond timely to calls when necessary,” Moran said.

And along with improving their fleet, the county is also proposing salary increases for law enforcement. Among those getting a bump are Smith County jailers.

“We don’t necessarily have a hard time hiring personnel, but the retention is what’s really hurting us,” Sheriff Larry Smith said.

Helping the county fund these goals: an increase in revenues from sales tax. Estimated at $21.5 million for FY 2022, compared to $19 million in FY 2021. The county also plans on pulling at least $4.8 million from the general fund reserves.

“We’re saving the taxpayers three pennies off that tax rate by taking out of the reserve fund and making sure we don’t build up that savings account, unnecessarily, too large,” Moran said.

Moran will formally file the proposed budget on or before Friday, Aug. 13. Public hearings are planned for Aug. 24 at 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Commissioners are set to vote on the budget at their meeting on Sept. 7.

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