County commissioners opted to propose a tax rate at the rollback amount of $0.4601 this year, hoping to avoid dipping too much, if any, into reserves to balance the budget.
Thanks to the influx of sales tax coming into the county, residents will actually see a significant tax rate savings though.
Sales tax revenue has skyrocketed in recent months as Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas drilling activity is drawing in workers. These workers are spending money both in the city and county, which is helping reduce the amount of taxes residents will have to pay this year.
Linda Bridge, tax assessor/collector, said, “The sales tax has helped our property owners significantly.”
Eight months ago, Comptroller Susan Combs sent out information that read similar to other news releases.
This upward growth of tax revenue was statewide.
“Strong sales tax collections continue in most major economic sectors in Texas,” said Combs in that release. “The strongest growth was from business spending-driven sectors, including oil and natural gas, manufacturing and construction.”
By December of last year, the county had seen its rebates climb to $2,484,841.69 for the year, according to a report from the state. That is an increase of 73.47 percent compared to the $1,432,354.44 the county had received the prior year.
Commissioner Ken Haggard reminded those on the court Monday that sales tax revenues have generated enough additional income for the county that the rollback rate would go down from the initial rate of $0.60685 per $100 property valuation.
“That is a 14-cent reduction due to our sales tax,” he said.
Judge David Silva, who is still working on the county’s final budget, said that he was confident the proposed rate would be enough to fund the county and still do much of what commissioners wanted, including possibly offer raises to the employees and elected officials.
“I think if we go up to the rollback rate, I think we will be OK,” Silva said.
Bridge said, “I think this would allow you not to have to dip into reserves. If you did, it would be minimal.”
For those following the trail of dollars, the county is still trying to avoid dipping into its reserves. The goal, according to Silva, is to maintain the surplus they have accumulated during the last few years.
Silva said that the Texas Association of Counties recommends that they retain at least three months of operating funds which is just more than a million dollars.
Commissioners opting to go with the rollback rate will mean an additional $547,000 added to the budget.
Because the commissioners stayed at or below the rollback rate, there is no need to call for voter approval.
However, because they are proposing going above the effective rate of $0.4144, they would have to hold public hearings. Those meetings will come later this month and at the first of September. Notices will be published in this newspaper to notify residents of the time and location.
It’s important to note, and commissioners highlighted this during their meeting, that the tax rate being proposed this year is actually less than last year’s rate of $0.49824.
However, this doesn’t mean that everyone will be paying less.
Some portions of the county saw increases in their property values, which accounts for the shift downward in the tax rate, but also new businesses or expansion of existing businesses help increase the tax rolls and lower the rate for everyone.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.