Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - August 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company
Proposed tax rate change approved
Houston County Courier - August 2009
By Daphne Hereford
Just after hearing a report from CPA Jesse Stephens about the 2008 fiscal audit, members of Crockett City Council voted to approve a proposed tax rate of $.477750, which is an increase over the previous year’s number of $.451110.
The increase is slightly lower than the rollback rate of $.477863.
City Administrator Ron Duncan said the proposed tax rate increase would amount to about $25 per year on a home valued at $100,000. He added that the calculations that formulated the increase take into account the loss of tax base citing mainly the car dealerships.
Duncan also said the revenue generated by the increase, estimated to be $1,062,614, was still about $11,000 less than the original budget projections but the funds could be taken from the contingency account.
With Councilman Ansel Bradshaw voting against the collective agenda item, council also approved the proposed public hearing schedule on the tax rate. Public hearings will be held on Monday, Aug. 17 and 24 and approval is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Prior to the discussion about the tax rate, Stephens told council, “You are headed for trouble if you don’t make some adjustments.” Stephens continued by reminding council that depreciation had to be included in the water and sewer budget and because it was not included in budgets of 6-7 years ago, required reserves are being depleted.
As a result, Stephens said the audit would have to disclose a non-compliance statement which would affect the city’s bond rating and the rate at which the city could acquire future bonds.
During the discussion Duncan said, “We have to understand that many are uncomfortable with water rates but now is the time we must stay the course and turn it around. We have to keep the water rates to be able to pay the bonded indebtedness.”
Stephens said the city increased water rates last year but that it would take several years to correct the issue.
Duncan said the rates established last year for the water and sewer should meet the revenue target and begin to reverse the slide.
In other business, Crockett Fire Department Chief Darrell Deckard reported that the city had been notified they had been selected to receive the SAFER Grant.
The 90/10 grant will provide for the employment of three firefighters and has a sliding scale match over a four-year period.
Deckard said the three firefighters would work a 40-hour week on days and their duties would include hydrant inspection, training, commercial inspections, business surveys, truck maintenance, and program presentations.
Deckard said if the grant was accepted by the city the new employees would be slated to begin in the new budget year about the second week of October.
Duncan said the city’s portion of the first year match of about $10,000 was in the new budget.
Councilman Robert Meadows began his comments by saying he fully supported the efforts of the fire department and appreciated the work they did.
He continued by saying, “I like to keep things simple. And from the comments made by Jesse Stephens do you feel we will be able to afford it (SAFER Grant)?
Duncan said he felt that next year’s budget would be tighter but by the third year the city should be okay.
Deckard said if the fire department had personnel to do inspections that rating would improve that would result in lower insurance rates for businesses and homeowners.
During the police report, Crockett Police Chief Jimmy Fisher said that on his next report he would have a breakdown of alarm calls by name for a 60-day timeframe to help evaluate the culprits in false alarm calls.
He added that over the weekend his officers were called to the Crockett Inn regarding the drowning of a 6-year-old child. He said additional information would be released in the future.
Council approved the donation of a lot located at 108 Burleson Street to Habitat for Humanity to be used as the site of a future ho me.
Council approved a resolution guaranteeing a loan in the amount of $2.8 million from USDA for Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation for the construction of the vocational school.
CEIDC Executive Director Tim Culp told council that he hoped to close on the loan by the end of the month.
He added that anticipated the bidding process to be concluded in 3-4 weeks and they hoped to break ground by the middle-end of October. The opening of the facility
He said Angelina College will operate the facility.
He added that he hoped the budget would be lower than projected in the loan amount with help from Vulcraft/Nucor and that the loan would be financed at a fixed rated for 40-years with no pre-payment penalty.
“This is a mechanism we have needed for a long time,” Culp told council in his closing remarks.